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Devils, water and blood

4/5

The final part of the CotCT AP is a little sandboxy and mainly describes the Castle of Korvosa (95 rooms). But we are not in front of a dungeon crawl here, because the PC will have the map of the entire place.

It is quite like this :
"Guys, you have to enter in the castle, find clues of the queen evilness and destroy the devils who may find there. How ? Well guys, everything is up to you. We NPCs will show and act only when it will be no longer dangerous".
And this is a little disappointing : the PCs are really on their own during both the castle exploration and the final part in the sunken queen, the main allies only act "off screen" and their actions and the rebellion are too shortly described. It is quite artificial.... but still greatly enjoyable.

The last part is great : I really love the fact that the end part of the story is set in a flooded dungeon, with aquatic fights. I also like the use of the blood pool ("oh look, there's a queen in a giant bubble of blood !", the references to Thassilon and the "false" awakening of the dragon.

The article on Kazavon provides many hooks to enhance and continue the story.


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Huge dungeon crawl with great ambiance

4/5

I'm not fond of dungeon crawling in general and I trully dislike huge dungeons. When there are 3 fights in a 5-6h hours game session, for me as a DM there are too many fights.

This AP volume "only" describe one huge dungeon with many fights, so at first it seems that it is definitally not my cup of tea. The book is quite boring to read with the detailed descriptions of all the rooms.

But I have to be fair : for groups who love dungeon crawls, Skeletons of Scarwall must be a masterpiece. The design level is far far better than Jorgenfist in AP4 or the Runeforge in AP5. A real ambiance radiates from this place, a dark and breathtaking ambiance with creepy haunts everywhere. If the DM removes most of the minor figths and if the players like this play style, it can be a blast to run.

Still, I prefer the way the Skinsaw Murders bring mystery and horror to the game than that "every undead bosses must be destroy" approach.

The Belkzen article is useful and give some ideas. The Zon Kuthon article is amazing... creepy and disgusting indeed, but amazing.

I give 3/5 for the adventure itself and +1 for the support articles. So 4/5.


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Refreshing

5/5

This volume is all about shoanti. In this volume, there is no "boring-linear-fighting-only-encounters-when-we-travel-from-A-to-B" and no dungeon ! Just a deep immersion in an exotic and rich culture in a land with uncommon features. Heavy on roleplaying and supported with nice articles. This part is truly refreshing... despite its title. :)


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Glorio Arkona is stupid !

3/5

I am on the fence with this volume.

On one side, I like the pig game, Laori Vaus character and the use of a galtan final blade.
The article on rakshasas give depth on creatures I had no interest before.

On the other side, the whole Arkona thing (and how Golio acts during this part of the story) is poorly handled for me.

Spoiler:
Glorio's cover is totally exposed when he sends the PCs in the labyrinth. It seems not enough subtle from a rakshasa leader, politically too risky. And honestly if he really wants to kill his sister, he can do it himself without involving anyone, especially not the PCs.
Futhermore, the idea of a "rotating dungeon" might seem nice on paper, but in practice I don't see how I can handle that in a game session.


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Best AP volume ever published ?

5/5

This AP volume is a jewel. You will find everything in it : deep NPCs, complex gray clergy (Abadar), corrupted authorities, mad evil cultists, fight against time, rich story with plot twists, epic final battle... Everything, really, is highly enjoyable. I don't see a major negative point here and I'm usually not a crazy paizo fan boy.


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Great start, great flavor and great NPCS, but maybe to linear

4/5

The first part greatly succeeds in unifying the PC's group, but keep in mind that for the rest of the volume (and AP), PCs have to like their city and want to help the guards of Korvosa.

The whole Harrow deck/Zeralla thing is a great addition of the AP, very flavorful, with rules and hints to use the cards in all volume of this AP. The NPCs are great and may be the best NPCs ever made in an AP from Paizo.

The different parts of this AP are nothing but a linear succession of missions from Marechal Cressida Kroft. However, each of these missions is important for the sequel of the AP's story (it prepares the way for the other volumes) and allow the PC to tackle a different aspect of the city.

I also like the Varisian article, especially the fact that it describes how varisians remember about Thassilon and the runelords without using none of this two words : very subtle.


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A great high level exploration scenario

4/5

Pro :
- Xin-Shalast is fully detailed (1/3 of the book) : I had the strong impression to read a city book guide (something between a whole book like the Guide of Korvosa and a single entry from Cities of Golarion) + an high level sandboxing scenario in the same time. It pleasantly surprised me.
- The wendigo/haunted cabin part is awesome
- No monster bashing unlike some other high level AP issues

Con :
- Not a real drawback but the side articles are really small (3 pages each without the title pages) because of the Xin-Shalast big description.


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Just a dungeon, but an interesting one

3/5

I like the way sins are tied to schools of magic in Varisia and the whole Thassilon empire story. Paizo have done a brillant job with that. But I also tend to not like "old school" dungeons (cf. my AP4 review), so I was not expecting something good with this "megadungeon" issue.
But if AP4 have disappointed me, AP5 have surprised me. It's an old school megadungeon, indeed, but I see a lot more opportunities for roleplaying in this AP, with few NPCs but strong ones.

Jorgenfist in AP4 was a zoo mess and I didn't like it, but in comparison most wings feels too empty in AP5. It totally makes sense that only faction's leaders remain after more that 10000 years, but a few additionnal minor NPCs could have increased the number of ways to solve the scenario. As written, there are only a few ways. For this reason AP5 is still interesting but is far from the outstanding political dungeon announced in the book introduction.

DMs have to be careful with the wing of anger : PCs seem to be expected to finish their exploration with this wing (no possible alliance there, the hardest fights and the escape). Depending on your group, it could be a problem ("No, don't go there, not now, level up and meet the other NPCs first !" :-)).

The side article are great additions, as usual :
- The Magic of Thassilon article only add 1 feat, 7 spells, 7 marks (create with the new feat) but they can add flavour to characters
- The Lamashtu article is really great


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A nice backstory, 2 great side articles but a mediocre dungeon

3/5

This one is really hard to review.

On one side, the first parts of the adventure are quite nice and Mokmurian's story is really great and deep, but I can't like the way the adventure is handled in the last 2 parts (under Jorgenfist).
A "one room = a strange creature different from all the others = a foe to beat without speaking" structure is called in France "Portes Monstres Trésors" (for Doors Monsters Treasures, I don't know if there is an equivalent term in english). It is for me the more simple but also the more stupid (no offence there to Wolfgang Baur) way to design an underground place in RPGs. I have a hard time to believe in this dungeon ecology (with giants next to dragons next to lamia next to trolls next to a kobold hero, etc.). Indeed, the foes are varied and interesting in term of game design, but that's all : it's all about fights, there is no really place for roleplaying in these last two parts, except with the female elder stone giant. Without her and the mechanical librarian, this adventure would feel blank and repetitive.
--> Back story and main foe background : 4/5
--> First parts : 3/5
--> Last two parts (the main parts) : 2/5

On the other side, the articles on stone giants and dragons are really great, especially the dragons' mythology one. --> 5/5

So I will give this book a harsh 3/5 rating.


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Just great

5/5

Pro :
- A three-parts story (a murders mystery to solve, a great haunted house to explore and a bunch of mad cultists to "unmask") interesting and well done.
- The handling of the haunts in the house is brillant and provide a nice and transparent way to learn the backstory of the AP for the players.
- The ghoul's fever use is smartly done.
- A great and useful article on Desna (with a 5-level prestige class).

Con :
- The part of the story in Magnimar is really too short and too straightfordward. It lacks some material to be DMed correctly as Magnimar is quite a big city. --> the new Magnimar book will be highly recommanded to run this adventure


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Not an original plot, but good anyway

4/5

Pro :
- Really nice background for the main foe (Nualia)
- Paizo reinvents goblins with verve : nice background, nice personnality traits. They are hilarious, insane but really seem dangerous.
- Brillant articles on Thassilon and Sandpoint

Con :
- AP1 plot is not original at all, even with these goblins and this main foe.

The adventure itself clearly not deserve a 5/5 and maybe not a 4/5, but the description on Sandpoint, the Thassilon article, Paizo's vision of goblins and the quality level of the product layout make the difference.


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Great articles, great set pieces, but not a good adventure as a whole

3/5

Pro :
- A great gazetter of Varisia
- Ogrekins get a great flavour, both thematically and mechanically
- The opportunity for the players to play a major role in the leadership of the fort is a nice addition to the campaign
- The Skull's cross damn as a concept

Con :
- The different parts of the adventure really feel disjointed, both in term of story structure and flavour. AP3 goes in every direction and tries to do too many things and to tackle too many themes and not always in a logical way. The skull's cross damn is indeed a great concept but don't fit well with the ogre theme and the fairy-touched haunted vale part is totally irrelevant.
- The starting hook is really a poor one : why would the players want to leave Magnimar/Sandpoint ?
- The 2 parts with true ogres, especially the final part, are just monster bashing.