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A History of Ashes Review

5/5

Warning: This review contains spoilers
Written from a GMs perspective
I ran this for 7 PCs
I ran the Pathfinder re-released version

In A History of Ashes feels like a critical turning point in the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path where enemies and objectives start to become clear and the PCs begin to truly march toward their ultimate goal. This turning point is handled superbly in one of the best written chapters of the adventure.
Pros:
The world building and character development continue to be great. The Cinderlands and the Shoanti characters are well developed and make for an great change of pace from the overall urban focus of the campaign. This transition happens quite naturally and didn't take away from the overall tone of the campaign. Also, despite the PCs being far away from the main problem, the writers did a great job making the main threat still feel present. The progression of Korvosa into martial law is laid out in great detail, so players are able to see that the situation is growing increasingly dire in their absense. Assassination attempts are a clear indication that their actions are not being ignored and that they pose a true threat to the queen. Most importantly, this book feels like a turning point in the adventure where the players are starting to get key information about what is truly happening. This means that they finally get to do missions that are directly related towards defeating the Queen, instead of just putting out the fires caused by her despotic reign.

In addition to a well formed plot and setting, the overall design of the adventure was pretty close to perfect. The game moved at a good pace, with no single section feeling overly drawn out. Combats were well balanced and appropriately challenging. There were tons of opportunity for good roleplaying, between winning the favor of the Shoanti, dealing with an antagonistic potential ally in the form of Krojun and the reveal of the grim revelation of how the Gray Maidens are recruited and trained. The discovery of Cinnabar's incredibly tragic backstory was an especially memorable moment for the players, who had previously had less sympathy for the Red Mantis assassins than any other group. There were also a lot of combat situations that were made more interesting by some unique additions. The fear of making too much noise and awakening the Havero and the having recreating the Shoanti legend by getting eaten by by a giant worm made for especially memorable encounters.

Cons:
One small complaint I had regarding this book is that it very exposition heavy, especially in the beginning. There is a huge information dump given by Neolandus, followed by more plot important information given by Thousand Bones. Then at the end of the book the players are given even more information by the Sun Shaman and Zellara. This is all good plot building, but can be a bit much to throw at the PCs at once. As a GM I am always a bit wary when I find myself talking for extended periods of time without much opportunity for player input. However, this isn't too much of an issue. The GM just need to be willing to reiterate information later on, in case it wasn't all taken in the first time and be careful during long monologues that they are not losing the table's interest. Some of the long cut scenes can easily be condensed if they are not your groups thing.

I did also notice that the combats are rather back loaded in this adventure, Combat is fairly sparse in the earlier sections and very heavy in the last act. However, in actual game play this did not feel as noticeable as I thought it would be. There was enough intrigue and action in the earlier parts to ensure that dice were being rolled each session and the the last act, while dangerous, was not overwhelming.

Conclusion:
Despite a few minor observations that amount to little more than nitpicks and can be easily dealt with, this was a fantastic entry in the Curse of the Crimson throne. It may actually be my favorite chapter of the adventure path to this point.


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Forge of the Giant God Review

3/5

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

Giantslayer continues to be decent enough adventure with some interesting set pieces, but a bit too uneven for me to highly recommend. This chapter did manage to somewhat improve upon the previous installments, with regards to combat balance. Unfortunately, it also seemed to lose ground with regards the overall intrigue of the main story.

Pros:
Probably my favorite part of this adventure is the first act. The PCs are able to uncover the tomb of a dwarven giantslayer. The dungeon has an interesting layout and a cool backstory. The giantslayer's betrayer being alive, trapped and cursed with immortality made for a memorable encounter. My players also enjoyed the magic items that were found in this dungeon, unlike some of the past artifacts, which were too specific to a class or religion for the party to actually use them. It was nice to see the giantslayer's items actually be useful towards giant slaying, as promised, instead of just being thrown into a pile of stuff to sell. It made the visit to the dungeon feel like a worthwhile detour.

In the same vein, the sidequest to relight Minderhal's Forge was a fun inclusion for the players. The dungeons they had to go to in order to collect the items they needed were appropriately short and some of the more memorable locations in the adventure. Also, the forge itself was a great reward.

Cons:
The biggest issue I had with this chapter was the pacing. Part 2 of the adventure, where the PC explore the valley and search for the cathedral felt like it dragged. It made it feel like the bulk of the adventure was just fights with random groups of giants that were not overly challenging, due to the players almost always being full rested for each encounter. Comparatively, the last part of the adventure was very short and almost anticlimactic as a result. Once the PCs achieved the initial challenge of getting past the army of giants, the actual cathedral did not take very long to explore and complete. If not for the side quest to relight the forge (which sends the PCs right back to the valley) the book would have been over quite quickly. The side quest itself, while one of the more interesting parts of the adventure, also presents a challenge to pacing. It is awkward to place, since regardless of when it is done it disrupts from the main story line and if its skipped, your players are missing out on some of the better content in the game. I found that this quest, combined with the already long travel times in the valley, had the negative side effect of diminishing the players sense of urgency with the main plot line.

Another issue with this adventure is that Urathash was not a very compelling main villain. There was nothing inherently wrong with him and he was a worthy foe from a mechanical perspective. However, he felt less fleshed out than the final bosses of the last two books. Skreed was a mysterious presence, whose cunning plans had to be uncovered by the PCs. Grenseldek's motives, while silly, offered a lot of context to the chaos and disorder of her fortress. Urathash comparatively felt like little more than an extra strong giant who just happened to have a name and be in charge.

This book is also where the encounters started to feel more than a bit repetitive. Most of the fights are with groups of large melee heavy hitters. Not only is this a bit dull, but the predictability allow the PCs to become overly tailored towards such encounters and somewhat diminishes the overall challenge level of most of the non-boss encounters. To a degree, this flaw has to be forgiven, since the Adventure Path is named Giantslayer. Anyone who didn't want to fight a bunch of giants, certainly picked the wrong adventure. However, the past books felt like they managed to have a lot more encounter diversity. I also felt the giants themselves could have been more interesting to fight if their classes, weapons and tactics were more diverse. Instead it felt like half of the encounters were against some combination of trolls, ogres or hill giants, all fighting with either clubs or claws.

While the encounter repetitiveness is somewhat excusable due to the limited number of CR appropriate giants, a less excusable form of repetitiveness was also found within the plot. The over arching plot is go to a secret place to find helpful items and then go to a fortified location and take out the leader, but avoid fighting the entire army. This is close to identical to the plot of the second book...and my players definitely noticed. This has me mildly concerned, since my peek ahead reveal that the fourth book sends the PCs on a very similar infiltration mission. The repetitive plot, combined with Urathash as an uninspiring villain and a somewhat lazy hook into the next book makes the main plot seem fair less interesting than the adventure's side quests, which featured better villains, locations, encounters, RP opportunities and items.

Conclusion:
Forge of the Giant God has a fun first act and is overall a functional adventure. It also has a couple nice treats in the form of loot that players will definitely enjoy, a good side quest. However, the overall adventure is somewhat unremarkable and has the unfortunate issue of having side quests that offer far more intrigue than the main story line.


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Escape From Old Korvosa

4/5

Warning: This review contains spoilers
Written from a GMs perspective
I ran this for 7 PCs
I ran the Pathfinder re-released version

Escape From Old Korvosa is another strong chapter in the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path. For my table, everything ran very smoothly and I was very close to giving this five stars. However, I held back from giving it a perfect score due to a few obvious flaws that I was able to avoid, but that could cause a lot of trouble for other game masters if they ran the book exactly as written.
First, let's talk about the positives. I've said it in past reviews, but I really love the world building and character development in the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path. The third book is no exception. By the time you reach "Escape From Old Korvosa" there are a ton of characters and plot threads. However, everything feels like it builds naturally and it seems like my players were able to follow along with no trouble. This book also felt like an important turning point in the plot, where things that were hinted at for two books, like Vencarlo's identity and Illeosa's true motives started to really pay off. The opening cut scene with the attempted assassination of the Queen was utterly fantastic. Despite there being heavy hints that the Queen was corrupt, the reveal of her truth strength felt appropriately shocking, especially for players who still weren't sure that she was anything more than a pawn.

Not only did this chapter do a great job building upon previous chapters, but the new characters that were introduced were also quite memorable. Pilts was just the right balance being a ridiculous figure, while still proving to be truly dangerous. Laori and Salvatore as morally gray allies made for interesting additions to the story. Neolandus, while not remarkably interesting in his own right, did provide a lot of good RP for characters who now found themselves tasked to rescuing and protecting such a high ranking political figure. Finally, Glorio Arkona and his whole manor stuck the right chord, that the PC's struggled to read and figure out how to hand. I have heard some other reviewers complain that they felt a little disappointed by the Arkona's arc ending here, since there was a lot of build up to them in the earlier books. I can see where those reviewers are coming from, as the GM is told about their involvements several times in the previous books. However, most of these are behind the scenes mentions that the PCs do not learn about, so for my players their introduction and conclusion didn't seem to leave anything lacking. The book also leaves open the possibility for the GM to have the Arkona's hound the PCs again should this feel like a loose end.

Another thing I liked a lot in Escape From Old Korvosa was the setting. The quarantined district allowed the PCs to stay within elements they were familiar with, like the riots and the plague, while allowing them to explore an area in more detail and deal with the consequences of that area's isolation. Exploring Old Korvosa temporarily separated them from the heavily marshaled mainland and put them an entirely lawless region. From an RP perspective in was interesting to see how this both freed them in some regards and constrained them in others.

Finally, I felt that this chapter had a good balance of both combat and RP. This was especially true as most of the book's event could be handled by both. They could try to take down Pilts or just negotiate with him. They could storm the Arkona manor or accept Glorio's meeting.

As far as negatives go, there was only one component that I outright did not like. Blood pig. On paper, it seemed like a funny mini game that did a great job highlighting how crude and inhumane Pilts and his crew had become in the absence of the law. However, in practice, the game did not work so well. My players (fortunately) only played for a few rounds, before one of them launched a surprise attack on Pilts. However, it was already becoming quite clear that all the turns and rolls were going to become tiresome. I think it would have been quite time consuming and dull to get through a whole game, let alone do a best of three like the campaign suggests. It's also worth mentioning that, if the PCs don't cooperate with the game and instead choose to fight, this becomes a very dangerous encounter. Pilt's mind affecting spells can all but remove PCs from the fight and greater invisibility makes him hard to bring down quickly, Jabbyr hits hard and there are a lot of mooks who crowd out the battlefield and make it hard for the PCs to go after the main two guys. This fight came very close to a TPK for my party and ended with Pilts getting away.

The last thing that needs to be talked about is the Vivified Labyrinth. This is the Arkona's underground labyrinth, where pulling switches causes sections of the dungeon to rotate. From what I have read, this dungeon was a negative experience for a lot of people. However, for my group in ran fairly smoothly and was a memorable and enjoyable experience. I credit the positive experience we had to two things. First, while researching this dungeon, I found a website with incredibly helpful information. First, the author pointed out something very important, that the rotating sections all rotate simultaneously, resulting in only four possible layouts. This is mentioned in the adventure itself, but is not made is obvious as it could be. The website also provides maps for all four of those layouts, which the adventure itself doesn't not provide and some additional advice, such as having Sivit stay in one place instead of move around the dungeon. The maps and the advice were incredibly helpful. The second thing that helped running the Vivified Labyrinth was that I look the time to draw out all four map on graph paper (the maps provided showed secret doors and pathways), then covered the different rooms with post it notes. Each time someone in the dungeon pulled a switch, I flipped to the next page. This allowed for the chaotic confused feel of the dungeon, while still giving the players something visual to latch on to. As a result, it seemed like my players were able to understand what was going on and avoid the confusion (and subsequent frustration) that this dungeon is certainly capable of causing. Still, while this dungeon was fun for my group, it required a lot of work for me as the GM and it could have been easier to run if the alternate maps were provided and things were explained a little more clearly. This seems like a bad oversight, considering that we ran through a re-released version of the campaign.

Complaints aside, this is still a strong chapter in a great adventure path. As long as the GM is willing to put some time and effort into planning the Vivified Labyrinth and is careful to not drag out Blood Pig if the players aren't enjoying it, you will most likely have a great time with this adventure.


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Seven Day to the Grave Review

5/5

Warning: This review contains spoilers
Written from a GMs perspective
I ran this for 6 PCs
I ran the Pathfinder re-released version

Curse of the Crimson Throne is an adventure path that is mostly advertised as an urban adventure filled with political intrigue. Seven Days to the Grave is a clear case where the adventure path effectively achieves exactly what it set out to do. Korvosa is beginning to fall apart and everywhere something seems to be going wrong. Still, the adventure does a great job of giving the PCs plenty to do and not instilling the sense of hopelessness that can sometimes infect this type of game.
Pros:
The first major positive is the plague theme. The plague offers a bleak backdrop that makes the adventure unique, as well as offering RP opportunities with new and old NPCs. It also offers a mystery that simultaneously keeps the PCs distracted from immediately discovering the truth about Korvosa's new leader, while ultimately leading them closer to discovering the truth.

In my review of Edge of Anarchy, I remarked that the book did not entirely stand up on its own, but did a great job of setting up the setting and characters. Seven Days to the Grave is where that choice starts to pay off. Cressida's fears start to become a reality as she sees her budget and authority consistently diminished by the new Grey Maidens. The Queen's initial set up will keep the players wondering for a while if many of her choices are caused by true malice or whether she is merely having her inexperience exploited by other corrupt individuals. Any friendship forged between the party and Vencarlo becomes interesting when all every bridge, but one, is destroyed between the main city and Vencarlo's home in Old Korvosa. Also, much like the previous book, Seven Days to the Grave does a great job setting up intrigue for the next chapter. However, I believe it does a much better job of remaining a memorable adventure in its own right.

Ultimately though, the best thing about Seven Days to the Grave is that it is political intrigue done right. After the attempted execution of a framed assassin in the last book, it is pretty obvious that there is corruption in Korvosa. It is also clear, between the riots and the spread of the plague, that the city is being thoroughly mismanaged. However, what is not immediately clear to the players is who is responsible and what their intentions are. Even when the players were given solid evidence that Dr. Davalus was colluding with the cult of Urgathoa to worsen the plague, the players still argued amongst themselves about whether or not to confront the Gray Maidens who were guarding the hospice. Ultimately they realized that, while they had strong suspicions that the Grey Maidens and the Queen knew what was happening, they couldn't prove it. As a GM it was very refreshing to not have the players immediately pinpoint the main villain within five seconds of meeting them.

Cons:
The only weakness I saw in this chapter was that, similar to Edge of Anarchy, some of the missions did still feel a bit random and disjointed. I know my players were very curious to investigate Old Korvosa, but instead kept getting approached by random people to do random missions. However, I did not deem this flaw worth of knocking of a star, since while these missions seem random, the story still is advancing. Even more importantly, the missions were well written and enjoyable, even if a bit random.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this adventure to anyone who enjoys political intrigue and I am excited to see where the game goes in the next few parts.


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Edge of Anarchy Review

4/5

Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Written from a GM's perspective.
I ran this for six players, using the re-released version for Pathfinder.

I've always heard great things about Curse of the Crimson Throne. However, the fact that my 3.5 experience was limited to only a couple of adventures as a player was somewhat of a deterrent. Since converting the whole thing wasn't something I really wanted to do, this adventure path got put in the backlog of things I might run some day. So, naturally I was thrilled when they announced that they were re-releasing the whole campaign for Pathfinder. Curse of the Crimson Throne immediately came out of the backlog and jumped right up to the top of the list of things I wanted to run. and having completed the first installment, I feel that the adventure mostly lives up to the hype.
Pros:
The setting and feel of the campaign is very well executed. Korvosa as a city falls into a lot of the tropes of your typical rpg city. Wealthy districts contain cavorting nobles and political schemers. The poor districts contain slums where crime runs rampant. While this is perhaps not the most original setting in the world, it's familiarity was useful. I liked that my players were able to make assumptions about the setting and quickly become immersed in the game world as a result. Once, they were comfortable in the world, the game introduces the king's death and the resulting riots, shifting the setting into something more unique. The writers very cleverly created a world that would be immersive and interesting, without requiring a whole lot of exposition to do so.

I also liked the way that NPCs were used in this game. Despite, the somewhat spoilery nature of the adventure path's title, my players did not immediately lock on to the queen being evil. Her initial portrayal as someone who is thrust into a position of power and way over their head makes it believable that her decisions are the result of fear and incompetence, instead of some nefarious plot. Cressida also served her purpose very well. Often I find that her type of NPC can seem a bit useless to the players, since they are always looking to the party to solve all their problems. However, between the obvious chaos and her careful, insightful commentary of the troubles facing the city, she came off as a competent commander who was just strapped for resources and dealt terrible hand. As a result, the players quickly viewed her as the trusted ally she is intended to be. Other characters also provided good roleplaying opportunities. Trinia, the scapegoat for the king's murder, works well as an introduction to the greater conspiracy and corruption in the city. Vencarlo was also a fun addition, even if he is not the most original character. Given his greater involvement in later chapters, I think it was smart to get the PCs acquainted with him early on.

I am also a fan of the chase mechanics that were used in a part of the book. I know that a lot of the special rules introduced in the various adventure paths can be a bit cumbersome and reduce things to dice rolls that could have been better handled by good RP. However, Pathfinder's chase mechanics are relatively simple to learn and I felt they encouraged my players to be more creative by forcing them out of the standard "move and attack" pattern.

Cons:
One potential pitfall with this adventure is that the information provided in the player's guide and the initial mission could set the wrong expectations for the rest of the campaign. The initial set up for the adventure is the PCs working to bring justice to a crime lord named Gaedran Lamm who has wronged each of them in some significant way. Without additional guidance, this could lead to players building characters whose primary motivation is revenge. That could be both disappointing, when Gaedren is dealt with very quickly, and problematic, because the rest of the game relies on the PCs being motivated to help the city, often for little or no payment. However, this issue can be avoided entirely by good communication during character creation. For my game I required all my PCs to either be good aligned or have a reason why they would be personally invested in helping the city during a crisis.

The only other issue I had with this book was the overall flow. After dealing with Gaedran Lamm in Part 1, the rest of the book is just a string of missions that Cressida asks the party to do. While these missions are individually fun and do a good job of introducing the players to life in Korvosa, they have little to do with one another beyond having the riots as a root cause. Also, with the exception of the mission to catch Trinia, they have very little relevance to the overall story. Even the final part of the book didn't feel very final. My players searched the entire dungeon for Rolth Lamm, because they didn't realize that the random Derro lackey they fought was supposed to be the final boss. Essentially, this book is mostly set up for future installments and doesn't tell much of a story in its own right.

Conclusion:
Overall I do think this is a great adventure. For my tastes, it strikes the perfect balance between combat and roleplaying. Also, while it might not be strong as a standalone adventure, it's also pretty obvious that it was never intended to be one. The job of this book is to introduce the key characters and get the players connected to a city that is, as the title suggests


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Carrion Hill Review

5/5

Warning: Review contains spoilers
Written from a GM's perspective
I ran this for 6 PCs

Carrion Hill is a module with a clear goal. It draws heavy inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft in order to create a sinister mystery and an inevitable fight with an ancient horror. I would highly recommend it to any table looking for that type of game.

One of the strongest aspects of Carrion Hill is the mystery itself. Investigations can be difficult to pull off in RPGs, since you have to tread the line between revealing too much, too soon and frustrating your players with a lack of information. Carrion Hill did a great job of keeping the PCs constantly moving in the right direction, while not undermining the overall suspense of the final encounter. One of the main reasons this works so well is because of the monster itself. The descriptions of the carnage it leaves behind makes it genuinely frightening for a group of fourth level PCs and details like the noxious sludge it leaves behind and the blood drained corpses just add even more texture to the initial crime scene investigation. Most importantly, the creature does manage to be an appropriately difficult encounter, without becoming so powerful that it is unfair.

Overall, my game was able to run without an significant issues. However, I have heard some minor complaints about the module, that we didn't encounter, but I can understand. First is the difficulty level. A lot of the fights are on the weaker side as. The zombies are not much of a threat if you have them trip into the vats. Most of the asylum residents do not pose a threat to the PCs. Keeper Hyve is fairly weak as a mini-boss. For my table, this was not an issue for a few reasons. First, with a table size of six, I was already putting in the effort to beef up the encounter strength. But more importantly, I see Carrion Hill more as a role playing adventure than a combat one. The zombies and the asylum patients might not have been difficult encounters, but they certainly were memorable. On the flip side of the difficulty scale, I have heard a lot of people point to the the chaos beast as a potentially deadly encounter. My PCs ended up not fighting it, as they found a pretty direct route to the final area. However, I can definitely see why the Corporeal Instability power would be cause for concern. GM's who run this should definitely be careful with it.

Another complaint I have seen about Carrion Hill is that it doesn't inherently capture that Lovecraftian feel. However, I really think this one comes down to the GM. The module provides the brushes and the paint, but like with any other adventure, the GM has to use them to paint a picture. Before running the module, I listened to an audio book of the Dunwich Horror, the H.P. Lovecraft story that the author cites as a huge inspiration. From that, I got a feel for the type of descriptions that were expected. Generally, I am a big fan of quickly getting PCs to a point where they can participate, instead of bogging things down with descriptions. However, for this game, I really took the time to prepare a fairly long introduction that would make the setting feel inherently sinister, while not overtly evil. So, while it takes a bit of work on the GM's part to create the right feel, I personally believe that the module provides a strong framework to build upon.

Overall, I give this module full marks. Even if it takes a little work to get it right, the foundations that it is built upon are strong.


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The Hill Giant's Pledge Review

3/5

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.


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Feast of Ravenmoor Review

5/5

Warning: This review contains spoilers
Written from a GM's perspective.
I ran this for 6 PCs.

I ran this with my group for three sessions (about 3 hours each) and found it to be a wonderfully compact module with great setting and story.

By far the strongest element of this module is its tone and setting. The book gives some really nice additional information about the customs of Ravenmoor that really helps make it feel like a strange backwater village where something isn't quite right. This made it very easy to make the location almost immediately feel mysterious and more than a little creepy. The investigation portion of the adventure was also well done. It gives the players a slow trickle of information that something is wrong, while still denying them a clear picture until the big finale. I also liked how the encounters were included into the adventure. Creatures that were fought, like the stirges and mongrelmen didn't feel like they were just randomly pulled out of the bestiary for the sake of having an encounter. Everything had a backstory and everything felt like it belonged in Ravenmoor.

I don't really have much in the way of criticism for this module. I would warn GMs that the final few fights were reasonably challenging for my party of six. A smaller party might find them to be a bit too deadly. Also, for those familiar with the genre tropes of the adventure some aspects might be a bit predictable. For example, my players immediately expected Shel to be a sacrifice as soon she told them about the Founder's Feast. However, I don't think this ruins the experience, as there is a certain charm in it's familiarity and how well it achieves it's intended tone.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this module to anyone looking for something short, fun and a little bit creepy.


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The Battle for Bloodmarch Review

3/5

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.


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The Harrowing Review

5/5

Warning: This review may contain spoilers
Written from a GMs perspective
I ran this for 6 PCs.

This is a module that I have always heard wonderful things about. From my first read through I was immediately hooked by its originality and vast potential for creative problem solving. Now, having actually run it, I can confirm that all the praise it receives is well deserved. For the most part my players fully embraced the wacky world of The Harrowing, leading to many creative tactics and memorable encounters.

Strengths:
The greatest strength of The Harrowing lies in the world itself. The concept is original, the locations feel vivid and unique and each character feels fleshed out with often hilarious quirks. Each section of the module seems to offer something new for the players to do, yet the author impressively manages to keep a consistent tone throughout the entire adventure. Because of the wonderful texture of the world, this module really encourages players to think out of the box. While almost every encounter can be defeated through pure force, more often than not my players chose the roleplaying options, simply because the game made it so interesting to do so.

Another fun component to this game was the tie in with the harrow deck, where players must play harrow cards at the appropriate time for in story bonuses. I had purchased a harrow deck, since I knew I would be running Curse of the Crimson Throne right after this one and I'm glad I did. At first I was worried that this might feel too gimmicky or make the game overly easy. However, for most of my players, I think figuring out when to play each card was their favorite part of the adventure. Also, as the GM it had the added bonus of making sure that they were really listening closely when I was doing location or NPC descriptions.

A final positive note for this module is just how much content you get for your money. The pdf seemingly isn't any longer than a standard Paizo module. However, the page count is absolutely jam packed with content and encounters. As such, I would wager the average table will get a fair bit more play time out of The Harrowing than they would out of other similarly priced modules.

Weakness:
I think that the only complaint I had as the GM was the module was a little bit light on set up information. The initial encounter that sends the PCs to the Harrowed Realm, the first arrival to the Harrowed Realm and the encounter with the NPC who provides much of the campaigns exposition do not have that "Read this to your players" prewritten block that Paizo usually provides. This puts a little more pressure of the GM to prepare for these moments and make sure they relay all the necessary exposition and properly describe the Harrowed Realm. However, as mentioned before, there is a lot packed into this module. So, I suspect the lack of such descriptions was simply a page count issue. Personally, I felt that all the extra content was well worth having to do a little extra prep work at the start.

Also, it is probably fair to mention that the tone of the module, which is whimsical and absurd, may not appeal to everyone. I did have one player who didn't quite connect to the setting and found the bizarre morality and actions of the storykin a little more frustrating than amusing. I wouldn't really consider this an issue with the adventure, since it achieves its intended tone quite well. It's more a note that The Harrowing might not be the right choice for any table that prefers their game to be more gritty and grounded in reality.

Conclusion:
Overall, The Harrowing is a wonderful module and nothing in the weaknesses section is really worth removing a star rating. I would highly recommend it to any group that would enjoy an RP focused adventure in a quirky, fairy tale like world.


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Wages of Sin Review

4/5

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

Finally, after nearly two years, my group has been able to complete this entire Adventure Path. Like the entries before it, this chapter did not disappoint.

Strengths:
This chapter is jampacked with content. Wages of Sin is basically a giant villain sandbox and the author outright states that the GM will likely have to fill in some gaps for options that they didn't think to include. This is true to a certain extent. For example, my PC were rather interested in the world outside of Talingarde, for which the campaign offers only minimal information. However, for the most part, it seemed like almost everything my PCs wanted to do had been accounted for. I was thoroughly impressed by how often I was able to rely on the prewritten material given the open-ended nature of the campaign.

Another thing that I loved about this book was how it really made the players feel like they were powerful villains. Fights with weaker creatures were mostly handwaved, while the creatures they actually fought all felt legendary and threatening. Also, making them leaders of Talingarde they were empowered to make decisions that would affect the entire nation and have consequences for generations to come. My players really latched on to the politics of it all. Every decision was weighed heavily, as they tried to get all the things they wanted, while trying not to drive the general population into supporting the rebels.

Last, but not least, I have to talk about the final battle. At first I was a little concerned. I saw that the PCs fought the titan and his planar ally, then the combination of Belinda, Antharia and the Solar. Two encounters didn't seem like enough for an epic finale to an almost two year campaign. Boy, was I wrong. The titan went down fairly quickly, but the fight with final three took over two sessions. Belinda looks weak on paper, until you realize that she can combine Mind Blank with Greater Invisibility to become practically unfindable. Antharia is an absolute beast and borderline unhittable by traditional means. The Solar can heal like no one's buisness, all the while still attacking with her dancing greatsword. Add in the fact that all three of them have access to long duration protection spells, like spell immunity and protection from energy...well, your PCs should have a tough time. The combination is an appropriately epic final boss battle.

Weaknesses:
One criticism I had, that I have seen other reviewers mention, is the way the the game handles Princess Belinda. Essentially, she has fled the island to form her army and Mitra has given her a magic item that literally makes it impossible for the PCs to find. Now, Way of the Wicked is no stranger to railroady plot elements. However, for the most part I have been pleasantly surprised by how little of an issue that was for my players. The path the writers provided always seemed to intrigue them enough that they walked down it willingly. However, the Belinda situation in this book was noticeably frustrating for them. Essentially they had to sit there waiting for three years for her to act and they couldn't do anything to stop her.

Probably the biggest weakness of this book is pacing. When I say that this campaign took almost two years, what I really mean is that books 1, 3, 4 and 5 took about 2 months a piece. Book 2 took about 5 months. Book 6 took the rest of the time. With Book 2 I was able to cut out a lot of material, due to its fairly linear nature. However, with Book 6 that was almost impossible, since the content was entirely driven by the actions the PCs wanted to take and initially the players were reluctant to accept time skips because they wanted to get as much done as possible. It took them a while to realize that there was no shortage of in game time to do everything they wanted. The most noticeable impact was on leveling. I used the story based leveling suggestions at the back of this book for most of the campaign. However, I had to modify it a bit for this book, overwise the players would have been level 17, 19 and 20 for about two sessions each and level 18 for the remaining ten months. Instead, I let the PCs level to 19 early and did some rebalancing of later encounters. Still, while I would have liked to have seen this book paced a little more evenly and I think the players would have appreciated a bit more combat, the content was dynamic enough that the game never became too stagnant.

Conclusion:
Ulimately, despite the uneven pacing, this is another excellent addition to the Way of the Wicked adventure path. It thoroughly does its job in offering an epic conclusion to the campaign. Regarding the campaign as a whole, while I have had minor criticisms throughout, I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking to run an evil game. It can be challenging for a GM, due the high level game play and it's unconventional nature. However, the payoff, at least for my table, was a unique and memorable gaming experience.


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The Devil My Only Master Review

5/5

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

Just a quick read of the summary for this book makes it clear that this is a pivotal chapter in the adventure path. The last four books have been building up to an inevitable confrontation between Cardinal Thorn and the PCs, regarding who will ultimately rule Talingarde. Much like it's predecessors, The Devil My Only Master does not disappoint.

Strengths:
The fear of any GM running a 16th level campaign is that your PCs are going to either steamroll every encounter you send their way or get brutally murdered themselves. I was pleasantly surprised at the challenge level of the encounters in this book. While the PCs did have a few easy wins, they also faced their fair share of challenges and near death scenarios. Havelyn and his crew turned out to be particularly deadly. Of course, I must mention that there is an encounter with the wraiths and the banshees, which even the writers acknowledge was not a well balanced r. However, my PCs managed to bypass this encounter entirely, so it was not a problem for our game.

The entire campaign has had excellent worldbuilding and character development. The writers definitely played the long game, with early introductions of characters like Tiadora, Dessiter and Richard Havelyn, as well as setting up Cardinal Thorn as a powerful entity. In this book, those choices really start to pay off. Existing knowledge of their adversaries helped to make the encounters much more personal and interesting. This book was also to fill in a lot of gaps for the players, as they are finally able to see Thorn's plan in its entirety.

There are also a few really great RP opportunities in this book. The scene with Dessiter and Nabarus was wonderfully fun to act out. The opportunity to make Richard Havelyn fall made for a very interesting encounter, where the PCs were able to play mind games with him as they were fighting. Of course, finally getting a shot at Cardinal Thorn also made for interesting RP.

Weaknesses:
There was only one real issue I had running this campaign, and it could very well be a unique problem to my table. The writers make the assumption that the players will not start trying to run the Knot of Thorns until Book 6, after Thorn is already dead. My player were a little over ambitious and essentially considered themselves the new leaders of the knot as soon as the party inquisitor was granted the title of high cardinal. This lead to some awkwardness, since there isn't much in the way of guidance as to how Thorn's various followers react to recruitment attempts while Thorn is still alive. Improvising with what I knew about the NPCs, they were able to recruit Cedrick Malthus early, they managed ruin any chance at a positive relationship with Barnabus Thrane and reached a tenuous agreement with Sakkarot, that he would remain faithful to whichever side emerged victorious. However, it might have been helpful to have a short blurb addressing this issue, since weakening Thorn's network was a pretty reasonable approach for them to take.

There is an appendix at the end of the book with special rules for handling undead players. I was not particularly impressed with these special rules. The rules for the vampire seemed overly convoluted and roundabout to obtain. For my game, I instead used a house rule where our vampire PC gained the vampiric abilities over the course of two levels, in place of those two levels. As for the lich rules, outside of the initial time and gold expenditure, it doesn't seem like there was anything that would make the PC balanced with the rest of the party.

However, since the first complaint is a very small oversight that won't be noticed by a lot of tables and the second is related to supplemental material that is easily ignored, I do not deem either complaint enough to knock a star off the rating.

General Advice:
The biggest advice I can give is to not be afraid to get a little wicked with Thorn. His strategy section explains that he knows the PCs abilities intimately and that you should adjust his tactics and his spells to account for this. If you just try to use Thorn's generic stat block, I promise you he will not end up being the formidable force that he was built up to be for the last five books. Windwall, Anti-Life Shell, Spell Immunity and Protection From Energy (Fire) were all highly useful for keeping my party at bay. I would also recommend going beyond the changes recommended in the strategy block. He has many spells that have 10 minute/level duration and even his 1 min/level buff last 18 minutes. Don't waste time casting these buffs during Time Stop. He knows when the players arrive at the Agathium, so cast there is no reason for him not to be prepared. Also, don't be afraid to play around with his equipment. Essentially, he is sold as the biggest threat your villains have faced yet. Don't be afraid to make him live up to it.


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Of Dragons and Princesses Review

5/5

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

This installment of Way of the Wicked was a pleasant surprise for me. After running through three great books, I shouldn't have been surprised when this one turned out to be a blast. However, on paper there were a few things that worried me about this book.

My first concern was the first act of the book. It is a sandbox style sacking of the city of Daveryn that is quite long and seemed like it would risk being stagnant. I still do believe that this is potential weak spot in the campaign. However, this weakness was easily navigated by cherry picking the sections that I thought would be interesting to my players and having Fire-Axe bring them up to the players. The rest of the events, I just held in reserve in case my players decided to explore. Personally, I ran the Duelist Academy event, because we had a Swashbuckler who loves challenging people to duels, the Baroness's encounter, because she is the cousin of one of the PCs and I merged the prison and the rebellion into one encounter, because I knew my PCs would love the opportunity to recruit prisoners and Ifran had useful information. I also ran the Duke's encounter via minion quest. All of these events seemed enjoyable for my players.

My second concern for this game was that the story seemed very reliant on the players making specific choices. I feared that players would decide not to bother with Chargammon or try to kill the princess. However, I did not face any issues with this. Thorn's plan offered enough intrigue for my players and Dessiter was a useful tool for persuading the players out of inadvisable plans, like trying to take Thorn out immediately.

In addition to the above areas, there were some other really great parts of this book. Eiramanthus in particular turned out to be a great boss battle. Spells like Mislead and Reverse Gravity made for a memorable and cinematic feel, while his melee prowess and anti-magic field had a reasonably optimized party of six fearing for their lives. The battle was so good that the happiest player at the table was the one who died, because she thought her death was epic.

The characters continue to be excellent. Chargammon was appropriately terrifying. Jeratheon is a fun addition. His dysfunctional relationship with his father opens up a lot of interesting RP opportunities that I think will continue to pay off after Chargammon's death. Also, even though Dessiter was introduced in the last book, I feel obliged to acknowledge him again, because he is such an excellent character. Every time he says something I can tell my players aren't sure whether to laugh, buy him a drink or punch him in the face.

Overall, this whole adventure path continues to be excellent and I have yet to find a good reason not to recommend it.


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Tears of the Blessed Review

4/5

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

In the third installment of the Way of the Wicked, the players are given the task of recruiting and army to sack the holy city of Valtaerna. Having played through this book, I must continue to give my compliments to creators. The world and the story is still holding the players attention and offering them creative ways to play their dark lords.

A particularly excellent part of this book was the appropriately epic Battle for Valtaerna. While this long fight spanned at least two full sessions and used almost every resource the party had, it never became tedious or felt like the players were just going through the motions.

However, if I had a criticism of this chapter of Way of the Wicked, it would be that the excitement is a little bit frontloaded. The Big Battle, while excellent, happens fairly early in the book. There is also the matter of a the Phoenix, who is fought relatively early in the book, but is actually a far more dangerous and memorable than the final boss.

Two words of caution to GM planning to run Tears of the Blessed:
1. Be careful with the Phoenix. My players were not well prepared heading in to that fight. Thankfully they had Protection From Energy or we may have had a TPK. However, our party mage had too few non-fire spells and the martial characters didn't have a way of getting through the Phoenix's DR 15/Evil. With the Phoenix's healing capabilities, the fight ended up being a slog where they could barely do more damage than the Phoenix could heal in a round.
2. Be careful with Holy Word. While, most encounters in the latter half of the book have access to this devastating spell, I highly suggest limiting your usage of it. This is a really powerful spell, that does a great job incapacitating players and making the encounter feel dangerous. Unfortunately, when you are a player, being incapacitated isn't very fun. Not only will your players hate it, but they will actively prepare ways to counter it. Considering that Holy Word is probably the best tactic of an otherwise rather weak final boss, you really don't want to wear it out.

However, minor complaints and warnings aside, I would still highly recommend this book. It runs far quicker and easier than Call Forth Darkness and maintains the series excellent quality in story and characters.


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Call Forth Darkness Review

4/5

Warning: Potential Spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

Pros:
The concept of Call Forth Darkness is really great. Getting to own your own dungeon and having to defend it against invaders is not something that players usually get to do.

Both the ally and enemy NPCs continue to be fun and memorable. Grumblejack is still a party favorite. Tenuous alliances with Ezra Thrice-Damned and Zikomo had the players sleeping with one eye open. Opponents were fleshed out well enough to make for memorable encounters. The minion system also opened up a lot of possibilities for roleplaying as the party threatened those not making quotas and began to pick favorites.

Finally, while the pacing of this book starts out rather slow, it really hits its stride in the final act. The presence of the Abbey and the watchtower in the town, as well as the impending threat of the dragon created a great feeling on tension as the players waited for their enemies next moves. The Sons of Balentyne were a good surprise for the party and proved to be worthy adversaries. Finally, the summoning of Vetra Kali felt like an appropriately epic finale.

Cons:
The only real criticism I have is that the book felt like it dragged in some sections. It took my group about five months of weekly play to make it to the end of the book. By comparison, the first book only took about eight sessions to complete. Between the unchanging location and the long stretches without level ups, there were definitely some moments where the game felt a little stagnant. I found a good way to deal with this was to cut a few encounters that didn't add much to the overall story, like the Wytch Lights and the Gorgimera. However, the most important thing, I found, was to encourage players to be proactive and add flavor based on their actions. Otherwise, the game risks falling into a monotonous pattern of "Does anyone want to do anything this week? No. Okay. So it's new week, does anyone want to do anything now?"

General Advice:
The Horn of Abaddon has nearly a hundred rooms and your players are heavily encouraged to modify its already complex layout. Pretty much every encounter has to be reviewed and carefully adjusted, so that players are challenged, while still feeling like their defense choices are meaningful. I would highly recommend printing out the player's map of the Horn and letting your players mark it up. Make sure that you have organized notes on the changes they make.

There are also a lot of potential allied NPCs to manage, which can easily throw off the encounter balance or overshadow PCs if not utilized carefully. The book recommends that the GM print out stat blocks for allied NPCs and have players run. I strongly recommend following this suggestion. Not only did it make running combats far more manageable for me, it also helped the players feel more connected to the NPCs. However, most importantly, it made it easy for me to keep all the players at the table involved, even though sometimes their PC was in the wrong place and was stuck spending their rounds running to the fight.

Finally, Call Forth Darkness is not an easy book for a GM to run. The book offers players a lot of freedom, which is great, but makes it extremely likely that the GM will have to create extra content for plans that the book didn't anticipate. An inexperienced GM might want to approach this one cautiously and any GM just looking for something quick and easy to run, should probably avoid this book entirely. However, when managed correctly, all these challenges can lead to an incredibly fun and unique gaming experience.


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A Knot of Thorns Review

5/5

Warning: Potential Spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for five PCs.

I am sure that the opportunity to play through an evil adventure path is enough of a lure for many gamers. However, what is special about Way of the Wicked is that it does evil so well. This book contains a helpful article about the pitfalls of running an evil campaign and how to avoid them. This advice is spot on and faithfully followed by the writers themselves.

Pros:
Player creativity is heavily encouraged. There are lot of scenarios that require problem solving and can't be resolved with brute strength alone. This gives players a lot of opportunity to put the lawful evil in their alignment to good use.

Talingarde is an interesting place. At first glance, the country seems like a Lawful Good utopia. However, it actually has a lot of issues, such as restrictions on academics, religious intolerance and general complacency. This really helps with backstories and roleplaying, as the characters, despite being evil, have believable reasons to resent their home country.

There is a lot of inspiration for how to make the NPCs feel vibrant and memorable. Everyone delighted in taking down the magister because he had been so rude to them, but they all felt awful about killing the man who ran the rookery. Then of course, who doesn't love Grumblejack the ogre?

While the entire book is strong, the final act is on another level. Unlike the rest of the book, players are given almost total freedom as to how to solve the task they are assigned. This freedom allows almost every build a chance to bring their skills to the table. Most importantly, up until the final act, the players are mostly just fleeing the law and following orders from their new master. The final act is where they finally get to feel like they are evil puppet masters, manipulating things from the shadows.

Cons:
The boat ride in the third act is a little uninspiring, compared to the rest of the book. It feels a bit like a string of random encounters, most of which don't further the story. If your players enjoy that, go for it. Personally, I cut about half of the encounters, especially since we were using story based leveling.

The story is very linear and can easily lead to players feeling railroaded. This is by far the book's biggest problem. There is a built in assumption that players will follow along the path provided for them. If this doesn't happen, the AP's method of dealing with it is fairly unpleasant, going as far as to outright kill non-cooperative characters at one point. There is a line in the character creation guidelines about the AP assuming that players say yes to an opportunity to work with Asmodeans, so build a character that can say yes. Find it. Bold it. Underline it. Circle it. Make sure that your players understand that it is 100% required. If everyone is clear on this point, your game will most likely run smoothly, without this being a major issue.