This is an excellent "toolbox" book for any GM or gaming group.
The rules systems are interesting and well-designed. Not every one is exactly what I would want out of such a subsystem, but that's not the point. A lot of them *are* exactly what I would want if I were implementing that type of rule, but even where they aren't it's really helpful to have the writeup anyway—even if a particular system isn't quite what you're looking for, it should give you a great place to start in figuring out the solution that works best for your group. You don't have to start from scratch. Here you have a book full of interesting ideas to consider and good rules to implement those ideas or to take inspiration from in writing your own rules if that would work better for you.
Not all of the systems are appropriate for the game I'm currently running, but the three I've chosen to implement (automatic bonus progression, background skills, staggered advancement) have all been good additions, and I'm looking forward to trying out the others in future games. I figure the clearest sign that the book is a success is this: I can't imagine running a home game now without looking through Unchained for a system or two to implement. I have a few favorites that I'll probably always use (and advocate for with my GM when I'm playing), but the best sign is that I can see myself going back to the toolbox regularly to see which systems will fit the particular game at hand.
I guess I should say a word about the classes, too. They all look like fine revisions to me. (I've only done careful work with the Monk, but I'm very happy with that one. The others look solid on a read-through.) I expect I'll use them as the standard versions of those four classes from now on.
Let's start with the positives. I enjoyed the story of the scenario, and I'm told that it sets up Vengeance at Sundered Crag quite well. I also enjoyed the last fight, with an appropriately challenging opponent. And I did enjoy the way that the mass combat emphasized that this was war, and not just another mission.
But while I appreciate the risk of introducing a new set of rules in a scenario, I don't think it worked out here. Let me echo previous reviews on a few counts. (1) The mechanics were a lot to learn on-the-fly, even with an organized GM and plenty of player handouts. (2) Vastly unequal play-time for different players, since each individual mass combat had to be completely resolved before the next player could take a turn. The guys with the slow armies barely got to play for the majority of the scenario, and wouldn't have at all if the GM hadn't steered some enemies their way specifically so they could try out the rules. (3) For most of the scenario, my character wasn't involved at all, and I wasn't really playing the game I'd come to play. Together, not the best experience.
In addition, the troop struck me as a rather too much. For one thing, one new system per scenario, please! And the troop was awfully difficult at 3-4. Wall of fire as a move action plus unavoidable volleys as a standard action that dish out a lot of damage even if you make your save plus automatic melee swarm damage? Ouch, ouch, ouch. I'm surprised we avoided a TPK and don't see how that encounter looked like an appropriate challenge for a group of lvl 3s.
As a final note, I couldn't help but feel silly that a group of level 3 adventurers were sent to take out the commander of the enemy demon army. And succeeded! I understand the need to have the season enders accessible to more than just the high tier, but still. It felt silly.
I recently ran this for a table of 12th- and 13th-level PFS characters. We had a blast! Lots of good flavor and a few good challenges. Also, I quite like the art in this one.
I do have some small complaints, but I should note that most of these can't really "count against" the module, as they arise from running a module not written for PFS under organized play rules, and not being able to make adjustments to the adventure as written. For a home game, many of these complaints would not apply.
That being the case, I've enclosed the list in a spoiler tag. The list shouldn't distract from the overall assessment—that this was a very enjoyable module to run and to play!
I've also added a spoiler for my favorite "cruel GM tactics" for the boss fight. :-)
A Few Small Complaints:
A Few Small Complaints wrote:
* Table size! Running a module written for 4 characters for 6 PFS characters is just asking for a cakewalk. In the future, I think I may have to limit seats at modules I'm running to 5 players. Which is a shame!
* The skill and save DCs just seemed too low for characters of this level. Especially the numbers to spot and disable the very flavorful traps.
* Encounter size. Several encounters suffered from enemy numbers problems. Either by relying on a group of monsters with CRs at APL-5 or -6, for no challenge, or by relying on a single big monster with no way to keep up with the PCs' action economy advantage.
* The map of the main dungeon just seemed too straightforward. Long hallway with doors off of it? Boring! More twists and turns for more of a claustrophobic dungeon feel may have worked better.
* The final set of encounters didn't work too well in a PFS setting. In a home game it would work great, as the GM could throw whatever she felt like at her party. The module even says, "hey adjust these as needed!" But in PFS play, it just felt a bit rote. Oh look, another low-CR devil to smash...
Cruel GM Tactics:
Cruel GM Tactics wrote:
* Chyvvom had plenty of warning the party was on its way, so he scribed a symbol of pain in the summoning circle and covered it with a major image of the floor. The party opens the door and the devil is maintaining concentration on the major image while negotiating with the PCs telepathically. When combat commences, he stops concentrating and the 3-round countdown begins. So in the middle of combat, bam!, the illusion expires and the party is slammed with the symbol. It went perfectly. Bwahahaha!
* IMPORTANT! Make sure you have the boss use his summon ability *before* the party gets in the room. As a full-round action that can be interrupted by damage, there's no way he can get it off as his first round of actual combat. And without bodyguards the encounter is probably trivial. If you forget this, have him dimension door to a random other room, summon, cast silence on himself, and greater teleport himself and his bodyguards back into the middle of combat.