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Pathfinder Adventure Path #39: City of Seven Spears (Serpent's Skull 3 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Not bad, but not good either.Guy Humual —
As a player I do like a sandbox adventure, and this was a nice big sandbox for me to play in, but sadly much of the adventure was monster killing rather then exploring or discovering.
So let me start with the complaints (many of which have already been expressed by other reviewers):
1) the players were not the first group to discover the City of Seven Spears. What?! Turns out there's a ghost of a pathfinder that was part of a group that discovered it from over land, and we run into another pathfinder that was part of a group that discovered it though the darklands. Way to take away the heroic accomplishments of PCs completely.
2) The Spires don't seem to serve any point whatsoever. This adventure starts with the PCs hacking through the brush to discover the amazing sight of Saventh-Yhi. Seeing those spires made our PCs imidately want to explore them. Sadly, apart from some basic bonuses, the spires really didn't do much of anything. My character has slowly been piecing together the underlying plot of the campaign, she even reasoned that the city was there to guard against something, and she had a hypothesis that the spires must be activated all at once or in a set order to open up some secret ancient gate that leads to . . . nope, turns out there's a hole in the ground where some feebleminded elf escaped from that leads to the next chapter in the story.
3) Diplomacy = role for initiative. Our group was really never going to talk our way though this adventure, we really don't have face, but it seems like everyone and everything in this adventure was out to kill us from the start. Only the humans seemed willing to parlay and even they seemed ready to attack us at points. It would have been a nice mix to have more then one area in the city were we weren't automatically attacked the moment we were spotted.
4) Mystery/action/adventure = role for initiative. As others have pointed out there weren't any traps or abandoned temples or anything else that you might associate with discovering an ancient hidden city. If you were expecting Indiana Jones you'd be very much disappointed, this is more Duke Nukem, and while I appreciate there are time and word constraints you could have at least thrown us a bone here. I've been waiting for Indiana Jones style action adventure for sometime now but if that's coming in this adventure path we haven't seen it yet.
There are however some good points, and although I'm not so sure how well they translate from the adventure as written, I am giving this review three stars because of them.
1) Interesting characters and NPCs like them or hate them there are a lot of fun personalities in Saventh-Yhi. Not only do we have all our old friends from the Shiv, but we get to meet faction leaders, and the interesting denizens of city itself. Granted many of these folks are trying to kill us but there were lots of interesting interactions before the inevitable combat.
2) Good boss fights I'm not a huge fan of combat, to me it's usually something that we need to suffer though to advance the plot, but there were some tough fights in this adventure. Often encounters are written with creatures with abilities that counter the abilities of the players, as my character is a witch I notice many monsters that have immunities to mind affecting, but I don't remember too much of that happening here. There were big bad monsters for sure, some with various types of DR, but there weren't too many that seemed to exist solely to dick around the PCs. It's fun sometimes to fight a monster who's biggest defense is a vast amount of HP.
3) There was a promise of mystery and discovery Now granted much of this proved to be a disappointment, but just thinking that we were going to stumble across something vast and wondrous did keep me going. I wish the adventure had delivered but seeing that vast map and listening to the descriptions kept me exploring and anticipating.
4) There is lots of room to expand The adventure as written doesn't seem that impressive but my GM took the time to add some of his own content and these small changes made the adventure the second most memorable in the path thus far. The great thing about a sand box is that it gives you lots of room to expand, if you're a GM that likes building then this adventure has lots of space to build, however if you're the type of GM that prefers the work done for them and tends to run everything as written then this adventure might seem a bit dry.
Overall I think this adventure is probably middle of the road for me. It had great potential but I feel it squandered much of that, and while what we're left with isn't bad, what was missed makes this adventure feel like a bit of a disappointment. We raced through a jungle for this? I can only speak as a player however, I thought our GM did an excellent job, but many of the disappointments were from what he kept from the adventure and the real fun I had was from what he'd added. I'd give the adventure 2.5 stars if I could, I don't feel uncomfortable bumping that up to a generous 3, but I do agree with the overall disappointment of my fellow reviewers. Perhaps one star is a little harsh, I think there's enough good stuff here to warrant at least a two, but I can't disagree with their well argued complaints.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #38: Racing to Ruin (Serpent's Skull 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Print Edition Unavailable
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Not a bad adventure, but it fails to deliver on it's premiseGuy Humual —
Racing to Ruin accomplishes what it sets out to do, to connect Souls for the Smuggler’s Shiv with the City of Seven Spears, and completing that task without strange unexpected jumps in the narrative is all that we really ask for in an adventure. I have two complaints though, and both involve the premises set up in the title. Review behind the spoilers:
First of all let me address the number one complaint: this adventure is a railroad. Yes it is, most travel adventures are, but getting around that simply involves presentation. The complaints that most GMs get about rail roads are there’s no options, and sadly, as written, this is the case with this adventure. The PCs don’t get to choose the guide, the travel route, even something as personal as a PCs spirit animal seems to be random rolling of the dice. This doesn’t need to be the case. You can use the adventure as written and still give the PCs the illusion of choice. If the PCs decided to go a different route many of the encounters could take place anywhere. Do yourself a favour and if you have picky players let them feel like they’re in control. It will make your life that much easier.
Also, for a railroad adventure this adventure has the potential for jumping the tracks pretty early. Two problems pop up straight away, first the adventure assumes that the player’s discovery of Saventh-Yhi becomes common knowledge, hence the factions organize to race to the ancient city. But what if the PCs are tight lipped about their discovery? What if they don’t share their discovery with any of the NPCs and are capable of doing the translating and planning for themselves? Forcing this angle onto the players might leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths. The second problem is a slave revolt that a rival faction harnesses and aims at the players. Now in my experience if you have a good or altruistic party this encounter could spiral into a full fledged side adventure as the PCs try to over through the corrupt government of Sargava.
As for encounters, I found them varied and interesting, albeit somewhat predictable. My PC, for example, was always rewarded with being completely untrusting of any and every friendly local she met. She had the suspicious trait but it’s hard to play a paranoid when every friendly villager is secretly out to get you.
My ultimate complaint though is that Racing to Ruin neither feels like a race, nor does it feel like you’re discovering ancient ruins. The problem with the race concept is that you seldom see your rivals at all, there’s no opportunity to turn the tables on them and slow them down, there’s no encounters where you strive to out pace your opponents. Supposedly they’re somewhere in the back ground but your never really made aware of them except for when your rivals are able to lay pitfalls and assassination attempts on you (without fear of retaliation I’ll add). This just doesn’t feel like a race.
The second problem is the idea of ruins, when I see the cover of this adventure, and think of classic adventure movies of this genre, I had imagined that the reward and capstone of this adventure would be exploring some ancient Azanti ruins filled with death traps and puzzles. This was never delivered. But what I got was a monkey village that had already been well explored and pilfered by the natives and the PCs were left to pick through the crumbs. Worse still, if the PCs had their eyes on the big picture and where thinking only of the campaign ark, assumed that the serpentfolk were the true villains you were racing against, well you were sorely disappointed as these slippery are already here.
In summery, no race, sad under whelming ruins. Still I can’t call this adventure a failure, I had fun, and there is potential for expansion. This adventure does what it needs to do and does add a bit of tension to the campaign. You could do a whole lot worse.
This is one of the finest freebies in the Gaming marketGuy Humual —
Just looking though this magazine, without actually reading anything, you can't help but be amazed at the artwork and layout. This matches and even exceeds many of the early Dragon Magazines. There's artwork in here that belongs in monster manuals, that belongs in supplements, that belongs in adventure modules, but this is a FREE, read that again: FREE, fan magazine!
Now let's look at the content: New Prestige Classes? Check! New Races? Check! New Monsters? Check! Ready made NPCs? Check! Want more? Well aren't you greedy . . . this thing is free fan mag remember. What do you expect for free? But wait, there is more! Poetry! Fiction! Crosswords! Recipes! and even excerpts from a Pathfinder based play. All in all this is an incredible piece of work. Everyone involved should feel extremely proud and I can't wait to see Wayfinder 3.
Good idea, poor executionGuy Humual —
Having a map made out of wood or plastic has some great advantages, first, you can lift and move your maps without disturbing the minis, second, they are very durable, and third, let's face it, we're all kids at heart, having a wooden ship is just cool. Yes, putting this baby down on the table does bring out the wow factor (as my group can attest to). The Ravaged Pride was a great idea and even with the 80$ price tag I though it would be a great investment for my groups games. One of our group members even works as a cabinet maker and he suggested that if he was to custom make the ship he’d have to charge a lot more for the amount of work that would go into it. All in all, it seemed like a good product for a reasonable price . . .
So where did they go wrong?
1) The map is a bit silly. One set of stairs for the three decks, storage instead of bunks or a mess/galley in the forecastle, an extra set of stairs at the bottom . . . etc, etc.
2) The packing wasn’t sufficient. My 80$ boat arrived in the bottom of a large box in a plastic bag. There was shredded paper over the boat . . . but the boat itself really didn’t have any kind of protection. As a result I had to glue the railings back on the main deck where they snapped off. Thankfully the thin wooden rails didn’t snap (although they did splinter). A bit more care with the packing would have prevented this.
3) No assembly instructions included. The stacking levels of the main ship are pretty obvious . . . but assembly of the mast kit isn’t so easy. I can guess how everything goes together from the online pictures but I really shouldn’t have to guess or even download a picture from the internet to figure out how to assemble my boat. Basic instructions should have been included.
4) The masts tend to lean. When this baby is assembled it quickly becomes apparent that either the holes are too big or the wooden dowels are too small.
5) My product was incomplete.