Brigh

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Evil acts and unnecessary twists, with few rewards and no real consequences

3/5

The first two parts of the adventure expect, or require, the PCs to perform multiple clearly evil acts. For an AP where the PCs are stood up as famously virtuous public servants (or at least mildly corrupt public servants generally doing good in the end), forcing them down an evil path is a hard swerve that should have serious consequences.

For instance, it's an opportunity for some meaty and complex situations for players to navigate, not just in the plot but also how far they're willing to go against the grain of their characters' development, and how (or if) the PCs come back from that. Or, it's a chance to seriously interrogate the PCs' work as police by making them criminals, facing consequences for their actions and mistakes, and seeing first-hand the brutality that the criminals they've arrested face in Absalom's prisons.

Instead, at each juncture it takes a strangely consequence-free middle ground that's neither all that dynamic nor meaningful, then...

Spoiler:
... punches an utterly unearned reset button going into the third act that forgives, no questions asked, any heinous stuff the PCs likely did or enabled in the first two acts, like setting up the undercover agent who got them in front of the crime lord to be assassinated (and hand-delivering the kill order!), or aiding or releasing a fascist mass-murderer so she can... lend the PCs some gear? (Why does she have magic gear?? She's under arrest on a prison barge?????)

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It's all a particular bummer because the elements of a cool adventure are all here — the set up looks like an undercover heist and prison break, in order to confront a villain with a reputation as a socially invulnerable (but otherwise mundane) manipulator. However, at each juncture the adventure throws in a left-field twist seemingly just for the sake of doing it, and the result is unrewarding.

Spoiler:
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The crime lord cooperation is just in pursuit of a MacGuffin; there's no grand plan to break into or out of prison, it's mostly just "cast ''get out of jail ritual''". The prison break winds up being a dungeon crawl with a brute-force ending that defies any attempts at subtlety. Afterward, being on the run as fugitives is just a few skill checks against amnesiac witnesses in order to set up a combat encounter, the result of which automatically clears the PCs' names and gets them back on the force, with no questions asked.

All of that is in service of a final act that looks like it'll be an engaging social/roleplaying reckoning for the PCs and their role in Absalom up to this point, and against a compelling foe who should be able to use their evil actions from the first two acts to manipulate them into considering staying outside of the law — like telling them the first-act crime lord had the right idea to foster order by building power outside the broken legal systems, but he clearly wasn't as well equipped or right-minded as the PCs to pull it off.

But it instead just winds up throwing one left-field twist after another (Reginald is literally made of the ink of an enslaved kraken??? His head writer is a devil with eight prosthetic pen limbs so it can libel faster??????) that sets up a series of underwhelming demon/devil/clockwork combat encounters and boss fight.

The most distressing part is the chance that players will find out during the prison break that the first act wasn't even necessary — a second person knows the ritual required to escape, they're already inside the prison, they're good-aligned, and they're explicitly amiable to working with the PCs. So not only is the first-act crime lord a frustrating mess to deal with as both a GM and player, he's also ultimately redundant to the plot. The AP doesn't seem to acknowledge this, but the PCs almost certainly will if they investigate like the previous four issues have trained them to do.

In other words, the PCs commit evil acts for nothing, will almost certainly find out that it wasn't necessary, and end up getting away with commiting evil acts by being above the law. If the PCs don't reckon with this themselves (and do so entirely unprompted by the AP), and they're lawful or good, they need to move a step toward both chaos and evil if they finish the adventure as written. Not ideal!

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Like any published adventure, I can (and you should) replace what's frustrating in order to suit a table. The opening chapter of this adventure seems to know this is necessary, because it openly encourages replacing major plot points in service of making it more fun and suggests some ways to do it, though it presents only about a paragraph's worth of alternatives.

But then why buy it? It'll take about as much prep to rewrite two-thirds of this adventure to meet a minimum requirement of having more difficult but not inherently evil options, as it would to build an adventure from scratch.

The prisons of the Inner Sea article has some good hooks, but goes for quantity over depth. It's nice to have a bestiary with aquatic creatures that don't have Elder God/aboleth baggage, but the lusca is the only truly necessary creature (and it had already been statted for 1E). The Ravithra article is informative, but in the context of the adventure, it's filler — if she's mentioned in it, I missed it in two readthroughs.

It's tough to recommend this issue as a result.


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Oh god, it's both

5/5

a valuable resource they just give away for nothing, and a celebration of creative, constructive, collaborative fan culture! How could I _not_ give it five stars?

(Disclaimer: I'm the handsome one on the cover)


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Mending Osirion's missing links

5/5

Disclaimer: I contributed to the production, but not the content, of this issue.

Osirion has never been one of my favorite corners of Golarion. Lifted a little too literally from Egypt and dropped in with a ton of distant history but few links to the surrounding world's pressing plots, it often felt detached from the world around it. Mummy's Mask put a dent in that perception

Spoiler:
by tying it to the Shory Empire, justifying the sources and allure of Egyptian concepts like mummification in a world of resurrection and wish spells, and fleshing out the countryside,
but even in its wake Osirion felt more like a playground of tombs with a rich but distant history, and less like a standalone culture for plots beyond pulpy tomb raids or characters that feel fully integrated with the rest of the Inner Sea.

This issue of Wayfinder does a fantastic job filling in these little gaps in Osirion's uniqueness, giving GMs excellent ideas to make Osirion a place that stands up on its own and players more ways to push past overt Egyptian themes to become uniquely Osiriani.

Particular standouts for me include Robert Feather's embalmer archetype for investigators, which cleverly turns the class's alchemical strengths and social abilities toward becoming a devious architect of necromantic chaos. Jacob Sprunk's Weal or Woe is a lovely twist on the concept, giving us a nuanced view of undeath through Hapuseneb's corrupted mentorship of the doubtful dhampir Jaali. Jeff Lee and Dawn Fischer's article on shabti deftly fleshes out a crucial cultural detail of Osirion's many tombs and adds lots of clever options for tomb-building GMs to help break out of the curse of leaning too heavily on traps, mummies, and classic sphinxes. (Speaking of sphinxes, check out Jason Keeley's saurosphinx in the Bestiary!)

Sarah Counts's sal'awaan race brilliantly integrates Tian Xia's kitsune into Osirion, while Wojciech Gruchala's Aucturn cats use the Dominion of the Black references seeded throughout Osirion's past to create an incredibly creepy little foe. And I'm always a fan of casting Golarion's major deities in different lights, so I especially enjoyed John Leising's piece on a sect of violently anti-undeath Pharasmin extremists working in the shadow of the Ruby Prince and his undead Risen Guard.

Wayfinder does a great job filling in these sorts of corners of the campaign setting, and the consistently high-quality artwork and content makes me as proud as ever to be a part of putting these issues together. But this issue in particular excels at expanding the details of a part of the game world that can especially benefit from it.