Imron Gauthfallow

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Prince of Wolves no longer the best novel for me!


The Pathfinder Tales started with a big bang: Prince of Wolves, Winter Witch and Plague of Shadows; then, to me at least, it seemed to have settled into still very enjoyable reads but with always "something missing" in the story or character building/development.

Then enters Liane Merciels's Nightglass. The great art on the front and the text on the back cover put the bar pretty high: Something about shadows, a protagonist from Nidal who does not sound like the usual nice guy from the evil empire... The storyline had great potential for a good story but also great potential for failure. For instance a novel about drows can be excellent or pretty bad and nothing much in between - the novel is not about drows by the way. To me a story set in Nidal could attract the same potential for greatness or literary catastrophe.

To mimic a football metaphore, this is a book of two halves. The first one is the very detailed history of the protagonist, from the moment his magical abilities are discovered as a child to that when he is a fully fledged servant of the Umbral Court in Nidal. There is no "Drizzt moment" there, no agonising monologues, just someone who adapts to the world he is born into. Isiem was never going to be a paladin, like every single one of his fellow Nidalese, whether weak or powerful, he is slave to the Midnight Lord.

The description of what happens in the Dark Halls in Pangolais is creepy. I was surprised that the relatively graphic scenes of torture the reader comes upon have made it through the editor. The book, for its content bordering on S&M reminded me of Kameron Franklin's "Maiden of Pain" a Forgotten Realms book from 2005.

The second half, literally halfway through the book, sees Isiem on an assignment that will give him the humanity he never really had before or even knew could exist. This is not exactly the usual story about redemption that one would expect from the start. The book is pretty grim from its beginning the end. Isiem, even in his kinder moments always looks for number one. The overall darkness - but not evilness - of the story, punctuated by little sparkles of hope, makes this a unique addition to the Pathfinder Tales line.

As far as the Pathfinder Campaign Setting is concerned, Nightglass does what no sixty-four pages setting book could do, in any case, not with that feeling of immersion: Nightglass makes Nidal come to life.

Sure, I have missed the witty comments from Radovan, Gad or Krunzle; but Nightglass is not meant to be funny. Nightglass is about Nidal.

Needless to say: More like this one please!

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An intelligent dungeon crawl


The title says it all. This adventure has a lot of background and the players should be exposed to it relatively easily. There is a lot of work done to set-up the why and how of the place, everything fits and makes sense when one looks at it.
The encounters could indeed be pretty tough, but with all the various barriers, keys and other teleporting devices, it seems natural to move one room at the time, without falling prey to boring dungeon mechanics. Despite being a tomb complex, i.e. predictable ghosts and undead, the place has a lot of history and the adventure flow rewards inquisitive players.
I especially liked the notes at the beginning that allow the GM to change the motivation for the players to go and visit the place, so as to adapt to a particular party. I like Taldor and the author has done a great job crafting a story befitting this region of Golarion, the greatness of an old Taldor family, its fall from grace and amazingly a potentially setting shattering revelation!
Great art and pretty decent maps, well written, great design, interesting story, all in all, an excellent standalone adventure that brings a welcome change to the run of “pretty decent but not that great” adventures of late.

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Long overdue goodness from Korvosa


I have not run this adventure but am planning to do so at some point. While the maps leave something to be desired (only one original map), the adventure itself and background make up for the four stars.
This adventure comes a bit late as Curse of the Crimson Throne and the focus on Korvosa has been behind us for a while, but it made me pick-up one of the first Paizo books on what used to be called the Pathfinder Chronicles Setting. The adventure fits nicely with the “secrets” mentioned in the Korvosa book. The background information may require some inquisitive players for it to be dished out during a game session, but there is a lot there that makes it more than a mere succession of encounters.
This seems to be a solid adventure for mid- to high-level PCs and steps away from pedestrian dungeons.

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Extremely disappointed


I tend only to write bad reviews because I cannot spare the time to write some for all the decent books I read from Paizo. Therefore, as a “Pathfinder Charter Superscriber”, it pains me to say that like the two previous reviewers, I have found this adventure underwhelming at best.

The very first complaint is: "Where are the maps"?
While I do not mind some free in-house advertising by referring to the optional use of Map Packs and Flip Mats in my Pathfinder copies; I resent the lack of maps, and worse I resent being told to use generic maps for all sorts of encounters. Do I have to design and draw my own maps? I thought this was a ready-made adventure; this is what I paid for at least... Hello...?!?

That problem put aside, why oh why redo Runeforge (RotRLs, Sins of the Saviours) as a city? Runeforge was great, seven mini-dungeons with a theme, but one can only be original once. “City of Seven Spears” just does not work and for the reasons already exposed by Erik Freund’s review. The, I must say “lazy”, repetitive design carries on with “Vaults of Madness” as we get another seven mini-dungeons. The following instalment of the “Serpent’s Skull” AP has a bit more taste though with indeed more defined theme per cave... and it has maps, yeah!

I agree that one cannot always win and that people at Paizo can have a miss or two. I am a bit behind my AP reading and I dearly hope that the last two adventures rekindle “Serpent’s Skull” because the first two adventures were pure gold. “Legacy of Fire” had its continuity issues, but Paizo had the excuse of developing the Pathfinder RPG at the time. What is the excuse for those two unimaginative duds in a row (“City of Seven Spears” and “Vaults of Madness”)?

Note that for me “Rise of the Runelords” is still the ultimate AP, things were new and original back then and looking back makes parts 3 and 4 of “Serpent’s Skull” look pretty tired design-wise indeed.

That being said the non-adventure contents of “City of Seven Spears” are very good and it is a shame that the Juju magic article will not come to mind when mentioning the title of this book because of the poor quality of the adventure itself.

Well, as mentioned earlier, I am not going to burn all my Pathfinder books because of that, but I had to react to it nonetheless.

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Howard Andrew Jones, a welcome addition to the stable of Pathfinder Tales writer


To be honest the first couple of chapters had me tell a friend that this third instalment of the Pathfinder Tales line was excoriating and pedestrian. I mean, the cursed friend, the gathering of an adventuring party to go to a "Vale of Shadows"... Boring! Why not drop in other generic names like "The Black Hills", "The Bandit Road" and other "Dark Forest" while we were at it? To compound this grim first impression, I had never heard or Howard Andrew Jones before, and the location of the adventure at the border of Galt and Taldor sounded awfully like "Writer not senior enough to be allowed to mess up Egorian (Prince of Wolves) or Korvosa (Winter Witch), let's give him an insignificant border town to play with at first".

That being said, I suspected something was afoot, Paizo would not have made the mistake of producing a below average book so close to the beginning of the Pathfinder Tales line. Thank God, I was right! And I mean right in the sense of my first impression being totally wrong.

Having read Scott Lynch's "The Lies of Locke Lamora" recently, I came to enjoy the flashbacks in "Plague of Shadows" and the way they worked in the adventure. "Plague of Shadows" is of course far shorter but the author had the skills to pull this trick out without hampering the flow of the story.

It is tempting to compare "Plague of Shadows" to "Prince of Wolves" and "Winter Witch", so I shall yield to that temptation, but this is going to be very subjective anyway.
While Jones' ability to describe character growth in the story is not as good as Cunningham's, "Plague of Shadows" has a better pacing than "Winter Witch", which I think lacked an extra fifty odd pages for a proper "last part before ending" section. I have also missed the witty exchanges between Radovan and "the Boss" from "Prince of Wolves". As a new author, Howard Andrew Jones was always going to be the underdog when compared to Dave Gross and Elaine Cunningham, who have all their Forgotten Realms experience behind them when it comes to writing in a shared world/D&D flavoured campaign setting.

The author also tends to use unusual words, which is fine by me, but at times the misspelling is hilarious - or the bane of spellcheckers. I especially enjoyed the use of "byre" instead of "bier" in the tower for the place where all the juicy loot was located (armour, lance and what they were looking for). The former is a cow-shed, the latter being what it was meant to be: a coffin and its stand.

Back to the book, as mentioned above, the beginning reads like a rehash of a standard D&D fantasy storyline; but this must be seen only as a not-so-blank canvas on which the actual story is told later on. This is mainly a book about "alignment" as per the game rules and how the characters develop their own personalities without straying from their alignment. Sure the bad guys are evil, but in a believable sense of the term. As for the good guys, well they are not always that good, they seem to adapt to circumstances, which blends very well with the Pathfinder Chronicles feeling, i.e. everything is seen with shades of grey.

The adventuring party indeed ends up visiting a clichéed sort-of-evil tower in a vale of shadows (as the book title and cover art imply), and the ending is as expected as far as material things are concerned. However, what makes it a good read, as well as gives it five stars, is the succession of back-stabbing, treasonous acts and realisations of a more psychological aspect that the characters live through.

So in conclusion, another good addition to the Pathfinder Chronicles world - I know it is no longer called that :) - and I hope to read more from the author in a not too distant future.