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Pathfinder Module: Dawn of the Scarlet Sun (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Print Edition Unavailable
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Short, unimpressive, and lethal.Hank McCoy —
I am always appreciative of the effort and work it takes to produce a free printed product, so before I write my largely negative review, I wanted to express thanks for that. As always, Paizo products come with great visuals, layout, and ideas.
Let me get right to the heart of reasoning behind my low review, the end fight is just too difficult for most parties and in my estimation will result in a TPK or very frustrating outcome. Additionally, the final boss had feats which dictated the use of archery, but no bows were listed in her equipment, attacks, and was contradicted by her tactics which instructs the use of a melee weapon. This isn't necessarily bad, as she is an extremely difficult foe and misuse of feats actually helps the party in this case. On the whole, it's a mediocre scenario, with a overly-difficult final fight. My suggestion for improvement is for Paizo to always include a "scaling the adventure" side-bar and possibly the inclusion of more clues as to what the end fight will be so PCs can adjust.
As a Free RPG Day product, the purpose of which is to introduce inexperienced players or non-gamers to the hobby and to Pathfinder, this scenario falls very short. The role-playing options are few, the accompanying pre-gen PCs are complicated (for beginning players) or ineffective, and the end fight extremely difficult with a TPK likely. This leaves new players feeling over-whelmed by the rules, unimpressed with the story, and frustrated with their inability to succeed. If used in this way, I advise the DM to enthusiastically promote the use of the pre-gen paladin and make sure to pay close attention to the customization options at the end of each pre-gen. Reducing the difficulty of the end fight is strongly advised, ie, residual divine power of Sarenrae reduces DR for enemies & provides bonuses to saves & attack bonuses for the party.
As a scenario used for Pathfinder Society, it also falls very short. While players have the option to use the pre-gen PCs built using 15 point buy and under-equipped for their level, the scenario is very difficult for most players using their own characters. While there is fun in having the PCs design and carry out an ambush to catch an unknown killer, lack of attention to fleshing out this encounter creates a little extra work for the DM. As mentioned previously the end fight, is brutal. I advise DMs to help players after the first fight by using an NPC to suggest that players research or consult with informed NPCs about what type of creature it was attacking them and emphasize the the symbol one of the previous victims saw and what it means to fight creatures aligned to that symbol. This should go a long way towards helping the players gear up appropriately.
As a scenario used in a home game it also falls short but is probably the best use of the product. The average party level should be a little higher than listed IMHO and the DM should review the final fight to make sure his group is equipped to handle it and flesh out the investigation dropping more clues as to the foe they are likely to encounter. Even if the final fight ends poorly, follow the advise of the author and use the foe as a re-occurring villain.
Overall, the DM needs to do some additional work which is not required with other published adventures to make this scenario a success, but it is free so weigh that into your judgement. While the nature of the product dictates its length, it's not especially the best introduction to Pathfinder RPG or even the best module for experienced Pathfinder Society players. We Be Goblins and Fallen Fortress, also Free RPG Day adventures from Paizo, were much better introductions to Pathfinder RPG and offered a better experience for players.
Pathfinder Module: Master of the Fallen Fortress (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Print Edition Out of print
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Average but hey, it's a free download!Hank McCoy —
Look, I can't really complain because I got this adventure on Free RPG day and Paizo still offers it as a free download to this day. Putting the adventure in that context helps to understand its design goals and make sense of its shortcomings. This is a free adventure and it's not going to be Tomb of Horrors or Shackled City level of epic awesomeness. However, for what it is, it's pretty decent and the production values that Paizo maintains are still some of the best in the business, IMHO. However, I have to be honest about the written content to help others evaluate its appropriateness for them and their intended use of it.
First off, this adventure definitely has a first edition feel to it because it's pretty much a linear, dungeon crawl with few role-play moments but a decent amount of action. My group used the 1st level pre-gen PCs for Pathfinder Society and a few of the combats ended up being one-hit wonders, and few lasted more than a round or two longer. The combats do increase in difficulty as the players progress which helps build the tension. And when the big boss fight arrived at the end, the combat proved to be a harrowing experience and more than made up for the previous warm-up fights.
There's very little background story here, and the plot is almost non-existent until the very end. The choice of creatures was logical and varied which helped to maintain the interest of the party. And lastly, the quantity & quality treasure (especially on the Adventure Chronicle if it's being used for Pathfinder Society) makes it worth the work.
In the hands of a good GM that takes time to spice the game up by supplying a stronger, character-related background, and flesh out the dungeon by emphasizing the danger of an unstable tower on the verge of collapsing, this adventure could truly blossom beyond it's humble beginnings. Normally, this is where criticisms about the job of a published adventure is to provide the background and spice, but it's a free product so those criticisms carry less weight (or if you choose to purchase the print copy at least you'll have advanced warning).
On a side note, if you are planning on using this for Pathfinder Society, it's really best used as an introductory game, as there is no Prestige Award and no faction quests provided for existing PFS players.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #52: The City of Strangers—Part II: The Twofold Demise (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Good finish to part 1Hank McCoy —
This adventure was more combat focused and linear than part 1 of the series, however, the PCs still must interact with prominent & re-occurring NPCs although they don't figure prominently into the meat of the adventure. More than other multi-part adventures, the two parts of this one complement each other not just in finishing a story, but also in player activity. Players who aren't as interested in role-playing may have been bored at times with the first part, but they will find their interest in combat satisfied here. Played back to back, these two parts form a strong coherent whole providing time for varying styles of play.
Many of the NPCs which were introduced in the first part reprise their roles here to guide and direct the players. As before, many are memorable and unique enough to help the players make a strong connection to the city.
Combats were varied and balanced with some being standard fare, while others made good use of interesting NPCs and tactics. Initially, combat encounters seemed easy, however others were more of a challenge and that helped to keep the PCs on their toes. Only one of the faction missions really stood out, and while the others weren't particularly noteworthy, neither did they feel out of place or tacked on without connection to the story.
Overall, it was a solid module and while it was lacking a strong plot & role-play, it works well with the first part to provide a strong finish. I definitely look forward to future adventures set in Kaer Maga.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #51: The City of Strangers—Part I: The Shadow Gambit (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Great role-play and personalityHank McCoy —
While it's not required, reading City of Strangers will be very helpful in fleshing out Kaer Maga and makes for a much richer environment for the players & GM and I'd definitely recommend it. As part one of a two-part series establishing a feel for the city for this adventure makes it easy to maintain player connection to the city for part two. And because many of the faction goals require a bit of investigation within various districts of the city, making the setting memorable was a natural outcome of the players' desire to fulfill their faction quests. This is a great example of how faction goals can be used to guide player action while creating a stronger connection to the campaign setting.
The adventure itself had great pacing between combat and role-playing encounters while allowing everything to flow together logically and smoothly. Combat encounters were well balanced, although somewhat average tactically. The inclusion of some interesting weapon choices helped make them more fun. The real highlight for this adventure was that the PCs were able to meet & interact with several prominent NPCs in the city. Even interacting with minor NPCs that had short but unique personality descriptions became fun and eased the workload of the GM to create them on the fly. Characters that have a high charisma score or well developed personalities will really be given the chance to flex those attributes in this adventure.
Although I'm of the opinion that many Pathfinder Society adventures are somewhat of a rail-road due to time constraints and single-session style, this adventure definitely felt more open ended than others. That open-ended feel worked well with this setting in particular to highlight the uniqueness of the city while requiring the players to interact with the sandbox. Anything that encourages my players to do more than react to combat scenarios makes for a great game.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this adventure and the icing on the cake is that it becomes a great way to introduce an significant, ongoing storyline that stretches beyond itself or its sequel.
Good quality, concise without over-doing it.Hank McCoy —
The hard card stock is a huge bonus over other pretty much every other GM screen I've used and it contains regularly used charts for referencing skills, common combat modifiers, common conditions, item & weapon breakage, and XP rewards. I have used other GM screens that included flaps for everything from random weather charts to ordering pizza toppings and while I find them thorough in their presentation, sometimes it took as much time to flip through the flaps for that one chart as it did to look it up in the book. Personally, I think most GM screens all have a certain amount of similarity in them, but the heavy cardstock used for this one definitely gave it an edge.
Dungeons & Dragons—4th Edition: Player's Handbook HardcoverWizards of the Coast
Our Price: $31.46Add to Cart
Silly lookingHank McCoy —
Snakes are scary in and of themselves, but the goofy grin on this creatures face ruins the mood. The simplistic paint job hurts the mini even more. Lack of versatility seals the deal. There are better minis for your money.
Ugly, childish, & lacking in detailHank McCoy —
The idea is great -- undead treant. The execution is horrible. First, it's cartoonish when it should be scary or unsettling. Second, it lacks detail, where there should be vines and roots and worms and dead leaves or bark, there is a smooth black plastic body. Third, it's look is so specific it doesn't make a good substitute for other monsters for which you lack a mini -- so it's re-usability and therefore cost effectiveness, is greatly reduced. Lastly, the paint job is too simplistic and doesn't help cover the other flaws. Unless you plan on having an undead treant show up in your game, there is no reason to get this mini when other, better looking minis, are available.
Awesome miniHank McCoy —
Great sculpt with a dynamic pose that evokes interest and mood. It has great re-usability and the unique bone sword is a great touch.
Simple and cartoonishHank McCoy —
I hate cartoonish minis. It's a big smiley face with arms and legs made of stone with a one color paint job. Seriously, lacks creativity and imagination. It's more like something I'd see on a children's TV show with a purple dinosaur.
Decent scuplt & versatileHank McCoy —
Although it reminds me of the Death Priest from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it's actually quite a good mini. The sculpt gives this piece re-usability in a number of different scenarios as a Death Cleric, tribal shaman, necromancer, etc., unlike say a Chain Golem which has low versatility because nothing else looks like a Chain Golem.
The paint job is decent, better than most of the other monster figs that came with Against the Giants. As with almost all of WotC's minis since 4e came out, it lacks a finishing black wash to pull out the detail and the paint job is limited to as few simplistic steps with as few colors as possible. But definitely versatile enough to be worth the money.
Ugly and ridiculousHank McCoy —
Can't imagine a time when I'd need a large Chain Golem more than once -- even then I have better looking minis which could be substituted for this eye-sore. While it could have made for an impressive mood-evoking mini to excite & challenge the players, the cartoonish sculpt shows a complete lack of imagination. The paint job is adequate given the overly simplistic nature of this miniature.
The next time the party druid casts Entangle (with its lengthy duration) on the small cadre of soldiers charging at the group and you want to know how to place the spell so that it targets enemies and not allies, and if the center of the spell is within range, and how far does an enemy have to travel to escape the effect, and can the spell be placed so that it affects an enemy but not the two adjacent allies -- then you'll know this product is worth the money. It's great for spells with more than a one round duration. You can easily drop it in place and that's that. No stopping to draw the radius on the battle mat or moving every mini to slide a paper template underneath, or holding a paper template over the minis while each NPC & PC moves. It's quick, easy, and effective.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #19: Skeleton Moon (OGL) PDF (Retired)Paizo Inc.
Our Price: $3.99Add to Cart
A meat & potatoes scenario, lacking flavor & spice.Hank McCoy —
I was a little disappointed in this scenario. The story was a little lacking and largely the PCs had no impact on the outcome which gave it more of a railroad-ish feeling. Although there are a few moments of role-playing, it would not occur to most players what specific actions are needed to affect outcomes later down the line. And when those moments do occur they are rather brief. Atmosphere and tone of the scenario was tepid and didn't really highlight any particular aspects of Golarion's cultures, gods, history, political standings, nations, interesting characters, etc. Further, I was disappointed in the faction quests as some of them were nearly identical and didn't help develop sub-plots to enrich NPCs or flesh out the larger plot. Outside of expected party roles and normal role-playing skills, there really wasn't much effort made to generate moments for individual classes to flex their non-combat abilities. I think I counted a single skill check for the entire scenario.
Overall, I felt like the scenario was a good start but needed to have more flavor by adding in more investigative elements to hint at what is to come, and to reveal what motivates the NPCs. On a positive note the monsters were great fun and should give the players a run for their money.
I'm a fan of World Works Games. The products are wonderfully detailed and evocative of a mood perfect for the environment they strive to represent. Like Himmelveil Streets, this product has great flexibility and could easily simulate a dungeon or old temple environment or even a grim castle halls. A little work gives you instant payoff for a quick battle, but more work gives even better results and works with what you already made. I look forward to more sets, maybe even some retro-fits for earlier WWG products!
Beautiful & very functionalHank McCoy —
I love the modularity of the product and as always the quality is top notch. Great textures, versatility, adaptability. Now I want all my 3D models to work together like this product.
With even a little bit of work anybody can create a quick street scene for their favorite RPG. And if needed it can even double as a modular, on-the-fly dungeon environment. The more work you put into it the more elaborate and creative the city streets will be. If I had one request, it would be to release a set that had crates, barrels, wagons, coaches, and market stalls to populate my new streets.
Pathfinder Terrain: Ruined Undercrypt of Kelmarane PDFWorldWorksGames
Our Price: $16.99Add to Cart
Simply GorgeousHank McCoy —
There are other fold-up cardstock terrain companies, but none of them come close to the level of quality that World Works produces time after time. *The* best company at what they do!
The product gives a variety of options on how to use the product for less experienced builders or those with a tighter budget. And it can't be said enough: the textures & pallet are amazingly beautiful and atmospheric.
Night of the Living Dead GoodnessHank McCoy —
Definitely a good horror themed module that could easily be toned down for for younger audiences as well. The atmosphere is great and the story is genuinely good and has a logical flow to it. As a DM I loved running this module and the big fight at the end helped to build a lot of tension and was a nail-biter for the party.
There were some decent moments of role-playing and the fight scenes involved some good tactical challenges. The faction quests were unique and required investigation, not the token scavenger hunt or messenger service types. There was something to do for everyone, with a tip of the hat to clerics as explained by the module blurb. I'd definitely recommend this scenario as one of the better ones put out in during Season 0.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #17: Perils of the Pirate Pact (OGL) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Fisher-Price takes over at WotCHank McCoy —
This Disneyland Devil is a terrible compromise between the darker themed minis that a more mature audience desires, and the taste of a religiously sensitive parent.
If a parent is going to raise an eyebrow at the the possibly offensive thematic elements in this miniature, do you really think making the devil look stupid is the answer? Just put your creative time & effort into a more detailed, and better sculpted monster altogether.
Either find better sculptors or stop dumbing-down your minis.
Zombie Apocolypse: The Musical!Hank McCoy —
From reading the module description above, both players & DMs know pretty much what they are getting into, and it's a fun ride! There are some great role-playing moments and combat encounters are interesting -- although players mostly know what to expect. Keep in mind that this is a "funhouse" module where PCs wander from room to room and the monsters jump out. Inexperienced PCs may need some prompting to get them moving in the right direction. Faction goals were a little weak but easy enough to accomplish.
Here's my suggestion to potential DMs: develop the NPCs very strongly at the beginning. Play up the snobbish Taldan attitudes (a Paris Hilton-esque spoiled rich girl who needs a bad boy to piss off her parents, or the boys club of braggarts, scoffing generals) and develop some NPCs for sympathy (slave boy ordered by his child master to insult an ugly character, lost little girl, ostracized intellectual). Later, when these NPCs come back as zombies out for blood, watch your PCs attack with glee or regret their attacks to put the zombies down.
Great dice!Hank McCoy —
I love 'em. Great detail, great color, & the runes add fun to the critical hits & high rolls.
6's & 9'sHank McCoy —
I love everything Q-Workshop does, they are my dice company of choice. I think this is my 5th set of dice from them and I plan to buy the set for Second Darkness when it comes out. I love their dice cups, I love their dice bags. In short, I like this company a lot.
But... the 6s and the 9s look exactly the same on these dice. There is no little dot in the corner to indicate proper reading. Sometimes the correct number can be figured out by reading the other faces and comparing the position of the numbers on the faces of the die. However, the d20 has the exact same figure printed side by side in the exact same position. So the only way to get the right number is by checking the opposite side of the die and adding that number to the first result to get 21 for a d20, 13 for a d12, or 9 for d10. It's a small problem that could have been easily solved in design.
I advise a buyer to use the tip of knife and put a tiny dimple next to the bottom of the number to indicate "down" and used a yellow crayon to color it in.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #12: Stay of Execution (OGL) PDF (Retired)Paizo Inc.
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Solidly AverageHank McCoy —
The story is interesting and fun, the combat challenges fairly straight forward, and although the role-playing elements are moderately low they are very interesting and bring a unique personality to the game. It's a good module, if a bit average.
My chief disappointment in the module lies in some of the faction goals which frankly come across as hastily tacked on to meet a publisher's requirement. They aren't ludicrous or implausible but they don't feel terribly relevant to the faction or the story.
What I loved about Mists of Mwangi is that the faction goals each had a mini-story that was revealed as the players accomplished them. The mini-stories tied directly to the main plot building atmosphere as well as rewarding the players for their efforts. The flavor of the factions was also supported by the task being performed.
I think Paizo should strongly discourage "scavenger hunt" & "mail delivery" faction goals. Any DM could make up some random object and insert it into the story in some obscure location as a faction goal, but how does that develop the flavor of the faction let alone elaborate on the story being told? Message delivery is marginally better because it encourages role-playing but used too much and the PCs will simply start telling the pertinent NPC "you dropped this", hand over the message and walk away. How boring is that.
Don't let my diatribe on faction goals discourage potential players or DMs. The faction quests are a small part of an otherwise strong scenario.