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Better than the Pathfinder multipackLeon Aquilla —
The thumbnail art doesn't do this justice.
One mat can best be described as "basic Terran terrain with a stream or marsh in it" and the other can be described as "A poorly maintained asphalt parking lot" on one end and "Sterile 70's smoker nicotine-brown stained tile" on the other.
All very useful for a new Starfinder or Pathfinder player. If you have someone who plays both, consider getting them this.
Starfinder Adventure Path #12: Heart of Night (Signal of Screams 3 of 3)Paizo Inc.
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Didn't quite hit the mark.Leon Aquilla —
Gonna be honest, I think I stopped this one just before the finale because it was just sorta like "you know what? who cares. You go through a linear set of encounters, kill everything, then kill the last boss. The end".
We got through parts 1 and 2. Part 1 was the strongest. Hanging out on Shadow Verces, going up a shadow space elevator, etc.
But then things sorta just went downhill from there. The last area is just...not thematically appropriate. Like it's gory and grisly but I feel like there's no techno-horror in it. It's just like a bad Hellraiser sequel.
And while that's the point of the Shadow Realm, there has to be some sort of Starfinder edge to it, otherwise you're just playing a reskinned Pathfinder module.
In general the entire module was pretty underbalanced. By this point you have several PC's in power armor and they just chew up enemies and spit them out. The knife-fight-in-phone-booth encounter maps don't help either because there's no room to maneuver -- just you kick them, they kick you.
The ending is pretty underwhelming too. Cover-up isn't even the appropriate word, just...nobody reacts to it. A huge tragedy, a massacre of people, etc. and you either get asked by a corp to shut up about it or the Stewards suggest you go get therapy.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #147: Tomorrow Must Burn (Age of Ashes 3 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Slaver-killing GoodnessLeon Aquilla —
Let's take it piece by piece.
- A nice intro. Someone (presumably working on your castle) goes missing, there's a little bit of a scrap. I thought it was interesting because the antagonist knows next to nothing about you, and you know very little about him. HOWEVER....
....the first thing I have to bring up here is: NOWHERE is it explained that the Dreamgate links to Ravounel. I ctrl+f'd all three PDF's and it is not explained anywhere. The party is just supposed to somehow intuit that they can just stargate their way over to Ravounel instead of hoofing it across Isger and Cheliax. How is the party supposed to know? Because they used Eclipse on the Dreamgate beforehand? Okay, but then you would already have dealt with the hags in there and cleaned them out....so yeah. I had some peasant come by and say he noticed while cleaning up their basement gate-room that the carvings on the Dreamgate matched those of a cave he wandered into in Ravounel as a lad.
The Hags/Dreamgate - Oh boy. Be prepared for campaign derailment if you crit-fail that Level 8 Baleful Polymorph! If your party places the dreamstone back in the tree I might have an Azata come by as a reward and un-polymorph anyone who gets stuck that way. Otherwise better pray that your level 5 dispel magic crits because that's the only way you're turning the Cleric back from a bull (true story).
That being said, the Bone Devil lend his services to the highest bidder was a fun little complication and led to some haggling over whether the Witch told him to kill ALL the hags or just TWO. Hilarious and on point for a Devil....though what does a Bone Devil need with gold?
Cypress Point - Save the burning town! Excitement! Tension! Innocents to save! Demons to kill!
All great stuff. The only thing I'd suggest tossing is the boathouse as that encounter is a red herring (the Krooths already killed them!) and the loot is not worth it (a greater thunderstone)
It was nice for my Swashbuckler to claim the ship as a prize, even though that's not in the AP. IT is very odd that the AP doesn't say "oh by the way you can steal the slavers' ship and sail it to Kintargo rather than take a 3 day trip by land".
Thugs & Bruisers become a bit repetitive throughout the rest of the AP -- and right here they struggled to be much of a threat. Same thing with the mercenary sailors, who could barely hit my highest characters AC's.
The Nidal thing is a whole nothingburger, sadly. I think it was just too much on top of the main plot already. So is the ghosts of Barzhai, which, while a nice callback to the original Hell's Rebels, doesn't really amount to much here. Honestly gives it a kind of Scooby Doo-esque thing going on that I didn't like.
A nice starting encounter at Sunset Imports. Ugh, I hate golems. They never are a threat, just an HP sink. At least it made sense. Most of the warehouse is not worth perusing, just go straight for the prisoner at the very end. The Kalavakas and the ST Bruiser aren't really a threat either. I had the last guy surrender rather than drag things out.
Kite Hill - THIS PLACE WILL KILL YOU. Woooow. Level 13 encounter out of nowhere, holy crap. This thing mauled a party of five with Wall of Ice and Cones of Cold like crazy, and that frost slow effect on top of that? Woof. Very tough fight. Nonny (the NPC) having Inspiring Presence on everyone is almost mandatory if you don't want to be attending a funeral.
Coffeehouse - Mehhhh, the ghost haunting thing didn't really click for me. The haunts were not a threat to a level 10 party and neither were the ghosts. The Rakshasas could've been -- I liked getting the jump on them while they're sipping tea and debating what murder tea goes best with.
The Docur School for Girls - skippable if you were doing things in sequence, but I still enjoyed interacting with Lady Docur!
Tanessen Tower -
6th floor is a speedbump. 7th floor is a grind with TWO alchemical golems (consider reducing it to 1) -- I think this was the wrong place to put this fight as it just draws things out unnecessarily. 8th floor - woof. Knife fight with a caster in a phonebooth. Caster loses. Those Velstracs and thugs can't help him. Sure he can summon fiends but by that point he was already nearly dead. (Alchemical Golems might have made the fight more interesting...should've swapped 'em!)
Summershade Granite Quarry - no notes. A nice finale, it's nice and big, I like the situation with the potential drowning of the captives at the end, etc.
All in all, it's a shame that Paizo has opted to go for a 'noblebright' setting where the S-word is banned, because killing Kalavakas-demons is fun, beating the crap out of slavers is fun, for a GM playing them is fun because they're SO unlikeable, and everyone loves you afterwards. A good AP for feeling like big damn heroes. Your group will be so busy wiping out these unlikeable bastards that you'll forget what the whole metaplot was!
Pathfinder Adventure Path #146: Cult of Cinders (Age of Ashes 2 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Cult of the Overtuned CindersLeon Aquilla —
Editor's Note: This was personally a 4/5 for me, but that was because we had a Dragon Instinct Barbarian with the group that really sank her teeth into the dragon-related stuff. I think if you're not really into the premise, the hexploration slog and overtuned meat-grinder encounters make it a 3/5.
Age of Ashes part 2 has some weird narrative quirks in the first portion that remind me of how Rise of the Runelords has some parts that people view as cringeworthy today. Only this time it was done in the name of 'allyship' instead of to take a 'dark and mature' tone to distinguish it from D&D.
Chapter 1 - So Dahak is advertised early on, that was a nice intro, going through the tunnel tube and AHHHHHHHH TRAP THAT BURNS YOU TO DEATH.
Everything in this AP is overtuned and insta-kill traps are common. It's so ubiquitous I'm not even going to call it out. There are CR 8 enemies written for this AP that have a +19 fort save you can meet as soon as you step out of Akrivel when your skills can only give you a spell DC of 23. THAT'S FREAKING CRAZY! You mean I have maybe a 15% chance for my spell to work? The GM might as well just say "Don't even bother, it's not going to work". The whole thing is overtuned - learn to ignore set DC's and/or fudge them or else you're going to have a PC graveyard. Another example - why is ingesting PURE arsenic a DC 19 fort save to not get poisoning from, but ingesting arsenic from gold ore that just rubbed off in this AP is a DC 22 check to avoid poisoning ? Into the trash it goes. I swear I saw more crit fails from the group on this AP than I have ever seen in anything other than maybe Hellknight Hill.
So you go to Akrivel and it's a perfect society of Mwangi elves who live in harmony and just need foreigners to stay out, blah blah blah, yay noble savages. I'm not sure where a previous reviewer got the idea that the Ekujae are strong, independent proud Mwangi elves that don't need no adventurers, because they are instantly blinded if they get within 50 miles of the Fortress of Sorrow as long as these dragon totems are up.
I appreciated that Eleanor Ferron just said "roleplay through this stuff if you want, it's not that important" because man there is a lot of social stuff here.
The highlights -
The Leopard twins
The ugh stuff -
Akosa - This guy is a psychopath who just can't stop talking about all the Avistanis he's scalped. I get that we're supposed to be respectful and appreciative of other worldviews and he was an escaped slave and all, but both the Paladin and the LG Cleric were both creeped out by him.
Matchmaking - Okay, so...you want to match your dad, who was married to your mom, and has not shown any interest in being hooked up, with a guy whose hobbies involve scalping and race war, even though they have shown zero interest in each other so far. And her rationale is incredibly stupid. "The elder elves say I should mind my own business, but I'm a half-elf so who cares!?" What's Elven for 'barge right in, the door's wide open'? Both my Paladin and my LG Cleric said No thanks, highly unethical. Is this the minority representation that people are so proud of? Skip.
Just throw the Ekujae influence wheel in the trash. Some of the things in it don't make sense. Didn't know that temple was super important when a crazed explorer blew it up? Lose karma. Didn't know the alligator that tried to eat you was important to them? Lose karma. Dying of Dysentery because of some bad rolls and need to take some time, so you don't hack down a totem in time? Lose karma.
Into the trash it goes!
Chapter 2 - TOO MANY TOTEMS!
"Dear President of Paizo, there are too many totems in Cult of Cinders. Please eliminate 3. I am NOT a crackpot."
Rolling for dysentery like it's the Oregon Trail gets old after about a week of in-game time.
Soooo many friggin' tooootems. And there's only 4 that are interesting encounters: Red, Blue, Indigo, and Black. (Purple I'm not including because it's at the mine). Skip the others if you value your sanity.
The other encounters (A6, A10) are cool. I don't get why people were mad about Gerhard Pendergrast. I played him like Lord Roderick Ponce Von Fontlebottom (the Magnificent Bastard) from Jade Empire for laughs. Just an incredibly condescending foreigner out of his element. Maybe they got mad because his 'twin' appears to force the encounter at A10 or A7 depending upon what you did. First of all, he's pretty frickin' tough as nails, he SHOULD have a chance to run away, but second, who cares. That's actually pretty funny, and this guy is a caricature, not worth being taken seriously as a villain.
A4 is a red herring that just pulls you off the path for no real good reason. Thanks Nketiah!
Point of order - do you have to "destroy" the totems to bring down the Dahak's Shell, or just disable them? Handwave the destruction of the totems, except with the Griplis because that's the only part where it becomes concerning.
Chapter 3 - The Mine - - What a meatgrinder if you're not careful. It's possible for the group to stumble on this place without being level 7 yet, and if they do, Sarenrae help them because they're going to get MAULED. Luckily my group had a Witch with a Raven familiar so it went and reconned the entire mine. Otherwise this has the potential to turn into a TPK. Make sure you emphasize to the group three things: That the miners are scared of the Vrock, that they should unleash the Plesiosaur in the beast pen, and to befriend Hezle.
Even then, there's a lot of killing involved here. The CR 1 and CR 3 enemies are no big deal, and the Butchers (separately) aren't a huge issue. I PERSONALLY ruled that the purple totem was not a threat because it was 50 feet in a hole and there was no way it could have line of sight on the group as long as they fought around the pit mine. But that might trip up a novice GM. If your rolls go poorly this chapter could take an entire session of ONE BATTLE. I started having some of the CR 1 guys (who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn anyways) just take off after awhile, demoralized at seeing 20 of their pals get chewed up.
Speaking of which, screw the voidworms and screw the Naunets in the settling pool. By the point you deal with them you will be so tired of this and just want it to be OVER already.
Hezle deserved an extra page of exposition/text block/questions and responses. It seemed like she should have known more than the brief summary of what she's able to deliver to the group.
On that subject, it's never made clear in the text: So the Scarlet Triad just want GOLD? Mwangi gold? Or is it the arsenic-tainted gold specifically that the Scarlet Triad needs? Is the arsenic the corruption of Dahak? Or is it just coincidental? How is Hezle "testing" the gold for the qualities that the Scarlet Triad want in the gold as an alchemist? I have to assume she knows what arsenic is, what it's doing to the miners, but that they want the arsenic tainted gold for some reason. Anyways, more context needed! Maybe could have been taken from the wordcount devoted to all the fancy schmancy elves in their tree-city!
Chapter 4 - Fortress of Despair
Now we're talking. A good storm-the-fortress scene! Other than the crocodile you can't kill at the beginning, this is pretty fun. I think the DC's on the hazards are still overtuned, and I think that there should have been a bit more explanation about who's liable to mob you if you assault the front gates indiscreetly, but other than that it's just...okay. Again, watch the hazard DC's.
Sidenote: Elokos using Size Alteration in these TINY TINY rooms is a recipe for hilarity.
A word on Loot - This AP really can be hit or miss with loot. There's almost none until you reach the Mine (And then it showers you in +1 tridents). I basically gave the group all the nice Ekujae tschotchkes (including the Ring of Elemental Resistance that is a top tier reward for maxing out rep with the Ekujae) up front. Granted, we also roleplayed most of the interactions with the Ekujae. And you can miss the Bag of Holding if you don't encounter Gerhard Pendegrast and defeat him, which is not necessary for the plot at all!
Pathfinder Adventure Path #185: A Taste of Ashes (Blood Lords 5 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Seems fun so farLeon Aquilla —
Pathfinder Adventure Path #184: The Ghouls Hunger (Blood Lords 4 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Balanced fun! Really lets you play an evil overlord!Leon Aquilla —
Going to break this down scene by scene:
Parade/Audience - Loved this. Put on the FF8 Edea's Parade theme and chewed the scenery on it. Really good intro. Free tschotchkes is always nice.
Kortash is kind of a hit-or-miss thing. You only really need to talk to him 3-4 times total. But I didn't find him a grating NPC.
The Mortician's Suite - Starting us off with a fossil golem right after the group had to fight one at the end of book 3 seems like an odd stylistic choice. Your average group is going to nuke it from orbit.
The Gliminals are a BRUTAL fight if you heal by negative energy and are at all undead. The Gliminals can spread damage among themselves by daisy chaining bond in light. Be very careful with this fight.
Xharduun's Secret - This one can be hard for people to figure out as Secret Page has no other savings throws other than "Choose to Disbelieve" (and unless you know something is up with the books, you won't) and you wouldn't know to say a password unless you already knew they were Secret Page'd.
The Houseguests - Loved this part. The Research task right after was great as well as it was perfectly timed when the group immediately learns to HATE these guys.
Tower of Gnawed Bones - FUN. Love this place. Multiple methods of insertion, multiple paths. Not being stealthy invites a huge fight at the entrance (though can make the latter a cake-walk), and you can convince a Qlippoth to do your dirty work. Fun!
The Waterfront/Cerulean Glade - Dread Wraiths can't harm people who have negative healing, so this is a bit of a drag. The Rotbombers are pretty easy, the main thing is trying to save the dockworkers (if you care).
The chase of the final wraith is pretty exciting, but it has a very low threshold for failure (6 rounds, 6 events, no margin for error).
Cerulean Glade - Solar Golems were cool, I liked their beam of light attack. It was satisfying to crush that smuggler (the two vampires swore they'd feast on his heartblood, couldn't interrogate him). An aside about what Talking Corpse does might have been helpful. Again, a Dread Wraith at the final encounter adds nothing to an all negative-healing party.
Second Research Activity -
This was the only part of the AP I skipped, as it seemed like it broke the pacing. Your characters are falsely accused of something, and they have to spend days figuring out the next move. But there's no real pressure on them other than a -4 penalty to interactions with the public. So really you're just waiting around for them to succeed. I restructured this as a limited research goal to discover Bremeteria Veng, who then delivered a bunch of exposition linking the shadow ash and the Yearning Sanctum/Empty Chorus together.
Yearning Sanctum - - Again, more fun. Fun ways to bypass encounters. My wizard was so proud she brought along Disintegrate to nail that Force Wall, bypassing an area completely once the group climbed the balcony! Rinnella Brennon is a great NPC. It was fun to use her and I had her interact with the party Urgathoan at a banquet earlier in the adventure.
The Deathless Arena - - Boy did my Tyrant enjoy crit-succeeding on the challenge task. I appreciated that having hard evidence made the check of choice easier. And having a Thunderdome with the guy who's been making your life miserable was great.
The only part that's shakey is that Cawadok is a frickin' MURDERER and the part about him taking a dive is pretty shaky. My group focused on him first and made the mistake of engaging him in melee and he nearly killed them, which is odd for a character whose mistress specifically told him to take a dive. I think giving him a flat-footed penalty for the engagement or some other debuff might have been appropriate if the group agrees with Brennon's plan. The Plague Giants can be pretty brutal if they catch you in a pincer.
Regarding allegations of this part being a 'railroad':
I don't understand why PC's wouldn't want to do the Thunderdome, unless they're goody-goods and playing the wrong AP. If you hate it or feel like it's forced, I guess you could bypass it and go straight to the next part without much fuss*, but Hyrune's gotta die eventually so there is no 'non violent' solution to this.
* If a group were to do this, I might actually have Hyrune call THEM out to the Thunderdome.
The Hanging Castle - - I really liked the concept for this, but the map we're given on the last page of the AP wasn't quite able to do it justice and my player-group struggled with the idea of a 3D space. That being said it does certainly encourage alternative solutions (be sure to emphasize to them before they go down that this is definitely a giant dwarf fortress-esque cavern and they need to be prepared to move 3D).
I think Weeping Jack and Harmony in Agony should've been a combo encounter, preferably in the center chamber. The spacing is in general too tight (knife fights in phone booths mostly) and they can both be bypassed if your group doesn't zig instead of zag. My group went E2->E9->E10->E3 (but only because they heard harp music) -> E8 -> E11 -> E12. Adding things like the Tolokand were interesting but ultimately a little too much padding at the very end. There are a LOT of fights in here when all you're really craving is going down and killing Hyrune.
Also, my summoner pointed this out to me later, but you can just scry his position and teleport down there at this point.
Fight with Hyrune - Suitably adequate. Him having a possible escape route gives you incentive to play competently. The Unrisen were kind of average (at this point all your characters have fire). I appreciated that he lines them up in front of them to block the group's path so he can monologue. Rare foresight on the part of a villain! More should think about positioning beforehand.
Did Kortash know what was going to happen at the docks? Was he trying to help you? What was his angle?
Why are the Urgathoans and Kabrirites feuding? I looked at Kabriri's entry in the adventure toolbox, Urgathoa's entry in Gods and Magic, and several other places and all over the AP and couldn't figure out what Brenon's motivation was.
Berline Haldoli Rating: 0/10
Berline is one of the most amusing NPC's to come out of Paizo's Pathfinder in a couple years. Her absence is notable!
Pathfinder Adventure Path #183: Field of Maidens (Blood Lords 3 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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A boring midbook slog that doesn't respect your timeLeon Aquilla —
"We're sorry (Party), but your Hag-Vampire is in Another Castle, the AP"
This AP will wear you out. By the time you get to the final stop your party of evil or neutral-self-interested characters will be ready to just murder everything in sight to get it over with instead of having to stop and help yet another person with their little problems.
The Return to the Cottage - Oh hey, more Shadows, which do negative damage, that thing that doesn't hurt us! And a Div that doesn't want to fight. Skip!
Thornhearth - A series of haunts that will annoy more than threaten you. WE GET IT, HE GOT MURKED IN HIS TOWER. Bonus for the investigation of the townspeople as a time waster when you can figure out what's going on in the town in about 30 seconds.
Hollow Market - One encounter, one which is skippable if you pass your thievery check (I liked that, good to use stealth/thievery!). Then the most tedious fight with two vampires in a maze ever. Fast Healing 10 + Resist 5 Physical = I hope you bought cold iron swords or this is going to be tedious as Hell. I wanted to scream at my group "Please just use your SPELLS you're sitting on so we can MOVE ON"
Everything comes to a screeching, grinding halt for the middle of the AP.
Field of Maidens-
Medusa shows up. "Hey, I'll give you important plot info if you make these two groups go away. I don't care how." (POOF)
The connection of the Medusa to the statues is never underlined. And the Medusa-girl buzzes off before you can even ask. This is HUGE as it should underlie your entire motivations to get the two camps of Holomog armies to get out of the Field! But it's never explained to the characters!
At best you have to beg and plead with one group of...who are these people? There's barely any info about them in the book. Why do they dislike each other? Barely explained. What are they doing here? Barely explained. What are their motivations? Again, barely explained. I don't CARE about these people FFS, we're never going to see them again! Why are we having to spend literal in-game DAYS trying to be their friend or doing their chores?!
It's just hilarious how fast you go from 0 to BFF's. In 3 days it's possible with good rolls for the leader of the Greenblades to be giving you Victory Plate and +2 runes. This is the kind of crap that Tumblr D&D 5e stories are made of. "I rolled a 20 and they appointed me General! Hu hu hu hu! 5e is so fun, you roll a 20 and anything can happen! Wackiness!"
God forbid you're a Tyrant who is oathbound not to put up with this "Do me a favor and I'll do you a favor" crap or you'll TPK yourself into oblivion.
There is no way, as far as I can tell, to bypass this. You -have- to make them go away somehow. Whether by killing them all, assassinating their leaders (a tall order), or kissing butt with either side until they go away.
Perhaps aware that these are not really a riveting encounter, if you decide to suck up to the faction leaders, they will give you boring little chores to do involving small random encounters to pass the time. More busywork that doesn't get you closer to your goal!
This feels like someone who was really into Holomog inserted a different adventure halfway through this one, for the area of the Field of Maidens. Just, again, very bizarre and jarring how it brings things to a grinding halt. So many boring, boring encounters that don't really have any impact on things. Ugh.
This AP could have really benefitted from a third solution involving the ghouls at the Dead Tree. Instead they're a side-scene for the Zuntishan path. But a third path where you use the Ghouls to drive off both the Zuntishans and the Nwanyians would have probably salvaged this, and been more thematically appropriate for a bunch of evil Gebbites.
As it stands, this is yet another "Author did not understand the themes and tone of this AP and it shows" situation.
Shadow Manse - Straight and to the point. No complaints. Other than the fact that you can't 'discover' this house without completing the prior mentioned thing, which seems like a glaring oversight. What if we just decide "Nuts to this, we'll find the Medusa ourselves"?
Gristlehall - Not bad. I think the connection to Kenmimbi could be better. Again, you're just so exhausted by the time you reach it that you just want the thing to be over with.
The Holomog adventure toolbox --- whatever, it's Themyscira. Yay, feminism, I guess. Another matriarchical progressive society that can do no wrong and has no conflict or societal issues! 3 whole pages of it. Borrrrring.
The Rhino was an interesting NPC and I liked the idea of the Greenblades, but sadly this was just not the AP for it.
I'm actually really puzzled as when Jenny J. has written for Starfinder she's been very respectful of the GM/Player's time and kept things tightly paced. Drift Crashers 2 was a bit self-indulgent, but nothing on this scale of tedium.
Great art, great feats, great stuffLeon Aquilla —
I got no notes. A place that has long been deserving of its own splat finally got one.
The only thing I really found grating was yet another new pantheon introduced of gods NOBODY cares about.
Good class, good stuffLeon Aquilla —
It's a rulebook splat. More content = better thing in general. Nothing too controversial jumped out at me, lots of good stuff all over, like the feats (especially the kobold/dragonkin ones), and while the species descriptions were way too fluffy and boringly cute/optimistic that was a small quibble.
I think the Evolutionist class does exactly what it's advertised and my wife liked the playtest.
"Downtown City Streets" might have been a better descriptionLeon Aquilla —
"Downtown City Streets" might have been a better description
Highly recommend for generic urban encounters
Starfinder Adventure Path #48: Masters of Time and Space (Drift Crashers 3 of 3)Paizo Inc.
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Can't Go Wrong With a Dungeon CrawlLeon Aquilla —
Good dungeon crawl. Straight and to the point. I liked the dimensional maze in part 2.
A few criticisms -
- The Tesseract is designed to be Escherseque in its layout but the maps weren't able to communicate this very well. Some of the rooms were basically MMO "I kick you, you kick me" battles because they were fought in rooms that were 3x3 or 4x4 squares. With 4 party members, plus the tag-along drone, PLUS the enemies it can get cramped and limit your options.
- At level 5-6, a Kathrepi's Shade's Telekinetic Projectile has about a 1 in 4 chance to hit a properly armored opponent. Making them more nuisance than threat.
- A map for me to borrow for the final ship battle would have been nice. I improvised by googling a stock image of what the inside of a sphere would look like and used that, along with some lighting effects in Foundry for a miniature sun (and my players seemed to like it).
- Also the statblock for the Heart of the Tesseract is confusing. The text says that it can't maneuever so you have to choose somewhere for it to "face". Okay, well why does it have speed 4, turn 4 then?
- Malacantha's motivations seem like they got twisted between Book 1 and Book 3. Apparently if you fail she gets 'supercharged' by the Tesseract and goes tear-assing through Heaven and Hell. Interesting? But strange, because clearly Malacanta's motivation initially was both revenge and keeping you from causing a galaxy-destroying cataclysm, which is actually pretty noble for a Devil!
Probably should have been mentioned somewhere earlier in the text as a secondary motivation.
- The leaps of logic were convuluted and reminded me of Trek technobabble. The GM has to explain to the players "I can't explain why in layman's terms but your character gets the sense that this is a bad thing" to explain how they connect the professor's work with the Heart to the apocalyptic event they're trying to avert. Same with the "Well logically we have to jump the ship into the Heart Chamber" thing in part 3.
- the final ship battle is just a nickel and dime fest. Ugh, so boring. The Heart has too much HP.
Starfinder Adventure Path #47: Nightmare Scenario (Drift Crashers 2 of 3)Paizo Inc.
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Not impressiveLeon Aquilla —
Chapter 1 - seems to have a single point of failure for the investigation with a DC 25 check. Without the macguffin from the check you pass here, the investigation can't move forward and events (as written in the book) will not occur. So you either have to break with what the book advises, or just keep repeating the check until it works.
Chapter 2 - Meh. This may just be a flavor/content-dependent issue. I was really not interested in playing matchmaker/pretend-band/Yoshi's Safari with the inhabitants of Cynosure. The ending of Chapter 2 is rather vexing -- it's a knife fight in a phone booth with a virtual AI that can cast Arcing Surge 3 times. 10d6 line damage! Some of the NPC's and the content in chapter 2 are not appropriate for all tables.
Chapter 3 - Just kinda mushy. There were a lot more things that could have been done with the River of Souls than this, I think. You know that feeling of whiplash you get from the beginning of Episode IX where the Millennium Falcon jumps like a dozen times between landscapes that last only 3 seconds? That was sort of how I felt. The whole bit with the android ghost was so drawn out. Just let 'em drown in the River of Souls, it sucks, give him a sendoff. But no, roll DC whatever to figure out these are android psychopomps aaaaaa.
The stakes in chapter 2 and 3 felt so ridiculously insignificant compared to Chapter 1 (and what later happens in Book 3). Going from learning you may have inadvertently caused a galactic disaster in Book 1 to "...and now you're going to help these people solve their problems in little side quests" just felt like a whiplash in scope.
Leon Aquilla —
An upgrade to the old Space Station flipmat (which was very geometric) and higher resolution on some of the art assets.
The opposite side really doesn't scream 'space station' to me though.
Starfinder Adventure Path #45: The Culling Shadow (Horizons of the Vast 6 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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An ending!Leon Aquilla —
The armada battle was great.
The moon crater fight is way too overtuned with the sharpshooters sniping you from the craters rims.
The finale is a bit of a let down because Minaxoi turns like a bus and it's hard for him to maneuver -- his AC/TL is also very low and he's mainly a damage sponge.
The events after part 2 but before the finale should be skipped as they are misplaced and serve just as speedbumps to the ending and you don't really need the buffs.
The lack of pawns means you are basically on your own for depicting a crystalline purple-black Negative Energy dragon. Sorry!
Overall this six-parter has some problems with it that keep it from being in my top rated series.....the finale is way too abrupt. The "slow burn" of the radiation mystery doesn't work mixed in with the mundane matters of colony administration. I think if the Draeliks had gotten involved a book or two earlier it would have worked better.
Starfinder Adventure Path #36: Professional Courtesy (Fly Free or Die 3 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Thematically inappropriate adventureLeon Aquilla —
This would have been a great eco-friendly AP or stand-alone. I would totally buy an adventure with a bunch of Xenodruids doing some save the whales schtick.
But this is so thematically inappropriate for the general thrust of this AP series. I mean, the first one is called "We're no Heroes". Well the third one should be called "You're Gonna Be Heroes Whether You Like It Or Not".
EJ is played so comically over the top. Your choices are "Side with the People Chucking Kittens into Vats of Drain-O Or Not". And as if to remind you you made the wrong choice, the corp is incredibly cheap about rewarding you if you decide to take their side rather than the side of Shan/Tarika. That's not how you balance things! People do bad things mainly out of financial motivation, not because they're Saturday morning cartoon villains! Bad!
Here's some more bulletpoints on some other questionable design choices:
- A recurring criticism of FFOD is "We STOLE A FREAKING SHIP FROM THESE GUYS, why would we return to Absalom Station to do business?". Well, this AP starts out with you going back to Absalom. And worse, it confirms to the players that Absalom Station is NOT safe by having you ambushed there. Bad!
- Ship encounters are undertuned if you've been doing moderately well at your BP count. You will blow away the Gideron Authority ships, and probably EJ Corp's Negotiator too.
- Too much focus on the Wintermourne's crew. My group is not interested in them other than exchanging banter. The "What are they up to now/how do they feel?" bit is interesting, but they shouldn't have taken up as much page space as they did.
- Terra-5 is interesting, though a bit underwhelming. It's way too easy to "save" the platform. A couple of repairs to the struts and repairing the pump room and closing off some hatches and you're done. I did like the water flooding concepts and would have loved for this to be expanded on in some sort of Poseidon Adventure-esque adventure.
- HIGHLY UNDERTUNED. Low DC's and CR's all over. Nothing was even vaguely threatening about most of them if you're prepared for underwater combat. I think I had someone maybe fail one check.
- Side jobs are location-specific. If you're not on Absalom Station, you can't take the second or third jobs. Well, if the second job is appropriate for 6th level why would I be in the Golarion system when I did it? Unless I've gone completely off-script?
- Great art from Pixoloid Studios and Tomasz Chistowski.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #182: Graveclaw (Blood Lords 2 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Chapter 3 is a jarring messLeon Aquilla —
Tondro AP's tend to be a bit unwieldy and unnecessarily long.
There are a litany of issues with this AP.
- Hamfisted solution to the problem of no positive healing introduced at the beginning of the AP. No ritual entry or anything to explain why this hilariously game-breaking ritual that gives you negative healing can't be exported to any other AP.
- In part 2 there's an enemy that's literally weak to Area of Effect and Salt 5. You fight it in the ocean.
- Some copyediting errors with one of Haldoli's henchwomen. Glorinsa was a human in book 1 and is a skeleton in book 2. What changed?
- Chapter 3 is a mess. It's neither an interesting narrative-driven chapter or an interesting setpiece map. I would have preferred they go either all one direction or the other. Unfortunate because it's a pretty unique location. Slows the AP to a crawl.
- A lot of the chapters in general have that Tondro sense of taking too long to get to the point. It made me miss Starfinder where because pagecount is at a premium the authors have to keep things nice and tight and moving.
- Faction reputation still has no clear utility. I'm hoping that it will start becoming pertinent in book 3.
- I did like the inclusion of Pharasmans as enemies.
- In Chapter 4, there's a ritual that the last hag can use against you. But it requires your blood. There is no explanation where the hag would acquire your blood and as far as I can tell it just went unnoticed.
- Wraiths are used throughout the book. Why? They only do negative damage and since your characters (who would be stupid NOT to take the negative healing ritual offered) heal through negative damage, there's no danger.
- The Vampire Pub Crawl was great. But...
- My group wound up bypassing the office and the necromancer academy (which is okay!) and going straight to the townhouse of the hag. The ending was a bit of a let-down, again 3 wraiths which are not a threat to anyone who now has negative healing -- mummy rot COULD be an issue depending on how your GM rules? You can bypass the ettin in the basement and not miss anything - leading to a pretty weak final encounter.
Of the three Hags, I think Sahni was the most dangerous because you fight her in a phone booth with two angry ghoul gators. She also has Crashing Wave, which is a pretty brutal level 3 spell that does 6d6 damage and she can cast it 3 times!
Nathnelma is arguably the easiest of the 4 hags, with Decrosia being contextually difficult. Arguably if played as written, Decrosia sabotages her own encounter by defenestrating herself away from her Azmakian Effigy bodyguard!
Dry and too academicLeon Aquilla —
I really have been wanting to add this to my shelf for a long time. But I think it does Ustalav a disservice.
It is far too dry a text. Towns and cities are listed in order, with nothing really linking them together. Same with the history of Ustalav. I think an editor really could have just chopped this stuff up and summarized it without a lot of the flowery prose associated with it.
A good location splat should answer several questions, and do them in order:
1. Where's it located?
Pathfinder Adventure Path #181: Zombie Feast (Blood Lords 1 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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OvertunedLeon Aquilla —
Not sure why this is getting 5-star botted. It has some issues.
Anyways -- it's an okay intro. Berline Haldoli is a standout NPC. But the bank is a real death-trap. Very dangerous. The last fight with the haunt involved can also be very hard if you don't knock out the cauldron immediately.
Things that can happen at the farm
Things that can happen at the bank
Things that can happen at the Crooked Whatever
A+ art on this one. Geb's architecture is something else. Love how it feels halfway between Mesoamerican architecture and Dio De Los Muertos.
Some things failed to land for me, like the Arghun the Annihilator hand.
The bank was so frustrating that we nearly dropped the AP. Tight corridors, no real opportunities for strategy or bypass - just a lethal grind. At level 2 it will clobber you senseless. Consider giving the group level 3 before the bank, even though that's not what the AP recommends.
Hoping the next one is a little less combat-grindy.
Prevents delays when gaming in-person
Visual CandyLeon Aquilla —
I thought this was going to be a bad splat that would hem in GM's with ideas about Golarion that I don't necessarily agree with but they've taken a surprisingly light hand with that.
What's left is a visual feast of examples as well as small cultural fragments that you can insert into a game to liven it up or introduce character details. There is a LOT of art in this book, and it reads like one of those old Star Wars cross-section books for those of us who were into the technical details.
The section on Magic with the intricate runic circle design details I thought was great, and the map of weather patterns in the Inner Sea was similarly really well thought out.
Starfinder Adventure Path #44: Allies Against the Eye (Horizons of the Vast 5 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Ambush after ambush after ambush after ambush after ambush......Leon Aquilla —
The ghost encounter in the bunker at the beginning was okay. My group came up with the amusing image of carrying around the bones of the widow to her husband/children's remains.
The meat of this AP, going around the colonies and doing chores for them so they'll help you out (for what appears to be little mechanical benefit, a +1 to negotiation with the Pact Worlds?) is rather tedious busywork. The meeting with the Pact Worlds is just as tediously bureaucratic as it sounds. The meeting with the Vesk general was fun, but again, by that point when they heard that he had gone out into the cold alone and they'd have to rescue him they almost went "Eff this, get back to us when he comes back".
The cinematic moment halfway through the AP where Bedymm blows a colonist's brains out right in front of you was very well written, but I could sense my players were frustrated they felt like they were watching a cutscene and had no chance to intervene. I could sense they were ready to yell "OKAY, WE GET IT, HE'S EVIL, CAN WE PLEASE JUST KILL HIM NOW?!". They were fully aware it was a trap when they entered and they mostly marvelled at how dumb the enemy crew was inviting 4 heavily armed murderhobos aboard without trying to disarm them.
THEN they wanted to try and carve their way through the ship full of enemies rather than escape (I know, the AP says "this is an option" but should have done more to discourage it -- they only gave up the scheme when they realized 4 people can't pilot a cruiser)
The cruiser ship encounter can kill a player ship if it's not optimized -- that superlaser will shred through most CR 10 ships at this level. They barely got away by the skin of their teeth, which somewhat compensated for how easily they got away from the "trap".
After that it's just ambush after ambush after ambush after ambush after ambush and it gets a little ridiculous. One of my players actually muttered "Oh, son of a *****" after the last ambush at the end of the AP because by that point they had been "surprised" by an attack about 4 times.
The ambush at the end is a great setpiece. The ambushes before that are undertuned. In fact, a lot of this AP came across as undertuned to me. Just lots of encounters that get the crap kicked out of them, never really stood a chance against the group.
Starfinder Adventure Path #33: Dominion’s End (Devastation Ark 3 of 3)Paizo Inc.
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Doesn't quite stick the landingLeon Aquilla —
The first part of this AP is poorly placed and sucks all of the momentum out of the finale like an oxygen-starved fire.
First, it's a railroad. All it takes is one savvy player saying "Through the airlock? No, that's what they're expecting" and blowing a hole in the hull instead and you're suddenly answering questions if you pull this trick on them.
The unblockable "Sorry you all fall unconscious, are taken prisoner, and put in VR" thing in the intro also will rub players the wrong way.
Finally it's asking a lot of the players to pretend to be brainwashed Sivv who don't know who they are after 2 AP's worth of participation - this is the kind of mystery you create at the beginning of an AP arc (like Threefold Conspiracy), not at the end. I barely felt motivated to even PRETEND like they were all Sivv other than changing their icons.
Finally - the passage of time. The AP says that the party is captured for several days ---- What was the assembled Pact Worlds fleet doing this whole time, getting coffee?!?!
This AP appears to have been written in a complete vacuum, not even acknowledging what had transpired in the past. There's no contact with anyone on the outside! Did the fleet battle just last several days? Good question. This adventure doesn't even bother trying to answer it!
The vexatious part of all of this is that we already have a blueprint for how to board a super-colossal dreadnought class ship -- all the way back in Dead Suns 6!
In my opinion the whole thing should either be done as a series of narrative beats, no dice rolls, just roleplaying vignettes -- or skipped entirely.
The rest of the AP plays out pretty conventionally and is a suitable ending. But man, that first part is just a gigantic speedbump that breaks the perfect flow that the 2nd AP had.
Leon Aquilla —
K-O-G map good, Hellknight map badLeon Aquilla —
The Knight of Golarion Shieldcraft/Javelin map looks really good - has clearly delineated sections for various things, high detail, each part of the map looks like it has a purpose and the bottom looks like, if not a bridge, at least a Combat Information Center (CIC) adjacent to the bridge.
The Hellknight ship on the other hand, first of all has a kind of dried-blood/rusted metal red look to it, which I don't feel is appropriate (would have preferred bright reds) but also seems to lack any coherency.
There's living quarters on the north end which are rather spartan. Okay. There's a security desk in front of the living quarters for some reason? And the centerpiece is....I don't know what it's supposed to be, a Helldrive I guess? But it looks like a vampire's coffin. Finally there are two non-descript consoles in the bottom left and bottom right areas that don't clearly go to anything.
The Hellknight map unfortunately has a lot of negative space which wasn't utilized properly. I get the intent (confining corridors versus the open space of the Shieldcraft) but in practice it results in a lot of wasted space and no chance to show off what makes the Hellknights distinct from the other side of the map. I would have liked a more gothic and complicated styling to this ship deck design.