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Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves (Mummy’s Mask 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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UnexcitingLord Snow —
I was set up to like Empty Graves, since the concept seemed cool, but I was disappointed to find out this adventure is just not exciting enough for me.
First, it has some serious issues. The biggest issue I can see is that the AP is not structured well to make the plot of this adventure work. Many PC parties that went through the first adventure could be a bunch of greedy adventurer types, or maybe archaeologists, or many other things - most of which are not the kind of people to stick around in a city where hordes of undead threaten to devour the population.
A second glaring issue in this adventure is that it's going to be the easiest cakewalk most players ever experienced. As a GM, I learned the hard way that swarms of weak creatures can not hope to challenge even a suboptimized group of PCs - I tried shoving 7 CR 2 creatures at my 5th level party, and didn't even manage to make them break a sweat. The designers of this adventure, though, appear to disregard that - most encounters consist of numerous VERY weak foes. Groups of CR 2 critters are just not going to impress 4th - 7th level characters.
Other than those flaws (which I consider to be very serious flaws), there's just not much in the adventure that grabs me. The previous adventure in the AP was well executed but ultimately aimless - this one feels the same (but getting one less star because that's a bigger issue in the 2nd adventure in the campaign). There's simply stuff that's happening, and the PCs react.
Compare this to Curse of the Crimson Throne. In that AP, while the players also knew very little of the plot of the campaign by the end of the 2nd adventure, they were deeply integrated with current events and had things to keep track of and care about. They were denizens of Korvosa so they cared about the city. Something was clearly up with the political situations, what with the shocking events at the end of part 1. Thus when something really serious is discovered by the end of part 2, the PCs and the players are in a position to care and get invested. Here, it's just doing random mini delves and solving a problem for a city most characters might not even care about, and the hook that's set by the ending to pull you into the rest of the AP is almost nonexistent.
So far I consider this campaign to be the weakest Iv'e seen in years from Paizo. It lacks any sense of direction and the story telling is very loose. While both the first adventures are truly solid, and could be fun to play, they fail to be part of a larger story, and thus fail to excite.
The support article on the gods was O.K - some cool new art and a nice list of deities, however space constraints result in very bare minimum amounts of info on the gods, so all in all it's not as good as the usual good articles I'd say. The bestiary is really good - every single monster is a hit this time around, and I'm excited to find spots for those monsters in my game.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #79: The Half-Dead City (Mummy’s Mask 1 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Dragged down by lackluster premiseLord Snow —
Site ate my review, annoyingly, so I'll write a shorter, bulletpoints version.
* The premise of the adventure is boring as hack. In the half city, half necropolis of Wati, local authorities allow adventuring parties to delve into some of the city's many tombs and ancient, undisturbed locations. The PCs do explore those tombs, one after another, with no surprises or changes of pace, everything going in a predictable manner.
* The adventure has literally nothing to do with the plot of the APs. Even in previous APs that had first adventures mostly used to set up the parameters of the story than the story itself, it least there was always some pivotal moment near the end of the adventure that helped to start the overall plot going. Think Second Darkness, if you've had the chance to play or read it. Here, however, there's one tiny detail the players might not even notice, that hints that something that's maybe important may have happened (someone entered a tomb before them and took something from it). In short, no relation to the overall story.
* The execution, given the weak premise, is surprisingly good. Each of the three dungeons feels very different from the other two, and the variety keeps things fresh even if, in principle, this adventure is about the same thing happening three times.
* There is very little roleplaying built into the adventure as written, though some of the stuff makes for good jumping points for the GM to add stuff of her own. However, if you expect Shattered Star levels of roleplaying within a dungeon, you will be disappointed
* Very nice new monsters (living scrolls? yes please!)
Overall, when I'm reading the first installment in a new AP, I'm looking for something to grab me - and here, nothing did. that is because the premise itself, which I find bland and unexciting. That's not a good sign for a new AP, I'll tell you that. However, I'm sure the adventure will be decent fun to play through, hence the 3 star rating.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #78: City of Locusts (Wrath of the Righteous 6 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Out of print
Lacks shine, and isn't epicLord Snow —
So, here we are the last adventure of the Wrath of the Righteous adventure path. Our heroes are now as powerful as a PC could ever get in the game, boasting 20 character levels, 10 mythic tiers, several artifacts and a way higher wealth than any normal 20th level PC should have. They already bargained with a demon lord, spoke with a goddess and delved very deep into the Ivory Labyrinth. They single handily turned the tide of the current crusade on their own (by blowing up the warpstones), conquered their own fortress... that is quite the long lit of achievements. Having done all those things already, one can expect the last adventure in the path to be absolutely insane, epic and huge in scope.
While the previous adventure ended with a rescue of a corrupted herald from the Ineluctable Prison, this one has the heroes going to... a brothel? a smithy? the entire first half of the adventure feels like a low-mid level romp with higher CRs tacked on. The second half of the adventure fairs slightly better, as the PCs DO journey to the heart of the worldwound. However, it still feels like just a dungeon crawl with bigger monsters.
I mean, where is the crusade in all of this? where are the howling hordes of demons clashing against the raised spears of row upon row of knights in shining armor? where do the PCs get to show the world just how awesome they are?
This adventure is a serious miss, as far as I'm concerned. It is so small in scope (or at least feels that way) that it cannot possibly convey the epic feeling of the events taking place. Worse, the adventure is composed as a string of encounter areas, with VERY little in the way of describing the larger picture. It seems like everyone is dormant, nonreactive, waiting to see if the PCs will do anything.
Much like the 6th adventure of Curse of the Crimson Throne, this one is too constrained to do justice to the story being told. It has a rather unique opportunity to tell a story only such powerful PCs can participate in, but chooses to tell it like a much more tame story, holding back from unleashing any sort of real craziness. The craziness is entirely on the crunch side - very tough high level opponents. The fluff, however, is severely lacking.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #77: Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth (Wrath of the Righteous 5 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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A very cool abyss adventureLord Snow —
In "Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth", the PCs are caught in what my be one of the biggest stories ever told in an AP - the demon lord Baphomet lured Iomedae's herald into a trap, kidnapped him and corrupted him, and is no holding him prisoner. Iomedae herself addresses the PCs and requests that they help free her herald.
As an individual adventure, this is really, really cool. And the adventure is written in a way that capitalizes on the kind of high level adventuring it requires. We get an excellent description of Bephomet's realm, and the long dungeon crawl the adventure culminates in, The Ineluctable Prison, is the coolest yet in the AP. There's something awesome about seeing all those CR20 or more encounters, and I imagine playing through them will feel appropriately mythic.
Having said all those good things and given the adventure the high 5 starts rating it deserves, I do have a caveat or three. Firstly, as was hotly debated in the product description forum, I feel the section of the adventure that handles talking with Iomedae was a major spoof. Another small issue that I have is that the story doesn't really make sense - Baphomet is insanely angry at the PCs, but fears to confront them because of his vulnerable state - however, he knows full well that the PCs will be trying to free the herald from his Ineluctable Prison. Yet for some reason, instead of summoning a screaming horde of a million fiends to defend it for him, he... does nothing? seriously, he is inactive during the entire adventure, even though it is said many times that he is angry and looking for a way to get revenge at the PCs for all the trouble they caused him.
The greatest issue I have with this adventure is that it feels like the side quest - the main story of the campaign is forgotten and pushed to the background, and the PCs run off to do a mission that, while certainly accomplishes something great and important, also has nothing to do with the larger plot of the campaign. After the 3rd adventure, that was just a huge waste of time, and the fourth adventure, that also put the PCs far away from the action, I feel that a large oppertunity to play up the crusade aspect of the story was missed. Hopefully the last adventure will compensate for that, but for now it kind of feels like the PCs are away from the action running errands for most of the campaign. Compare to, say, Curse of the Crimson Thrones, where the PCs carry the torch of the plot from the second adventure all the way to the 6th, and what they are doing is always the crucial, necessary next step. That was a much better constructed story, in my opinion.
But, still, despite some problems that I have with the structure of the campaign as a whole, Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth is one of the coolest adventures Iv'e seen in a long while, and it makes me hope that the next one would be even more awesome.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #76: The Midnight Isles (Wrath of the Righteous 4 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Into the abyssLord Snow —
In this fourth part of the campaign, the PCs finally leave the material plane behind and hop head first into the abyss - one of the most horrible realms in all of existence.
Of course, the PCs are not yet high enough in level to survive the more hostile locations in the abyss, but luckily for them, their mission sends them into the Nightmare Isles, realm of the Demon Lord of Juvenile Fantasies, Nocticula. In their quest to stop the production of a special kind of crystals that make demons into mythic versions of themselves, the new heroes of the crusade must brave infernal jungles, a beautiful city that hides it's terrible nature behind a fanciful yet dangerous facade, and even a meeting with the Demon Lord herself!
The mid part of the adventure is certainly the strongest. The possibilities for unique adventures in the capital city of the Midnight Isles are endless, and the players will be responsible for taking the initiative and getting things done by themselves. The later part and the early part, though, are standard dungeon crawls, albeit truly high powered ones - the PCs are quit the little menaces by this point.
All in all despite the unique setting the adventure feels rather bland, and no particular thing about it really stands up above the rest. I suspect that the fact that it was written by two different people had to do with it. It still looks like a ton of fun to play, and is perfectly serviceable as a part 4 of a campaign.
It is a bit annoying how unimportant the PCs mission turns out to be, though. They stop the production of the super crystals, and process to meet, like, 70 mythic demons in the next adventure. If there are so many, surely preventing the creation of the crystals barely matters.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #75: Demon's Heresy (Wrath of the Righteous 3 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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a Hexceptional adventure!Lord Snow —
Well, we get to the third part of the campaign. The PCs already saved a city and conquered a fortress, they blasted wardstones in the face of thousands of demons and retrieved a long lost artifact.
And now, they are reduced to roaming the worldwound and hoping something interesting would pop up in front of them.
I have now read 5 out of the 6 adventures in the campaign, and I feel like I have a good picture of it's general shape in mind. And I must say that this is the adventure where I feel the story maybe lost it's direction a bit.
The two previous adventures were about starting things off, and they did a really good job of it. By the end of the first adventure the scene was set for a new crusade, with the PCs standing firm in the front lines. By the second adventure the PCs already took an active part in the new war. But now? now nothing much is happening. Even though a war is supposedly raging in the near vicinity, the environment around the PCs does not really seem to react to it. This adventure is really kind of just a tour of the worldwound, more than it really is part of the campaign.
Maybe it's my personal dislike of sandbox adventures, maybe not, I just feel that the players are going to spend so much time touring and sightseeing in this third part of the AP that by the time the actual story of the campaign kicks back in they might be a bit cold for it.
All in all, the weakest part of the AP, if for no other reason than it's non-significance from a story telling point of view. For those who like a sandbox, though, this one is as good as any Iv'e ever seen.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #74: Sword of Valor (Wrath of the Righteous 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Once more into the breachLord Snow —
This is the second adventure in the adventure path, and it offers a unique and refreshing experience for the heroes of the newest crusade -to lead their own small army of paladins into the worldwound, in an attempt to conquer a fortress and retrieve a powerful artifact.
The adventure is essentially two different parts. In the first, the awesome part, the PCs lead their army, and have to tackle not only the usual assortment of monsters and villains that every PC does, but also the responsibilities of leading a hundred soldiers. In addition, a possible traitor in their ranks makes things even more interesting. This part does a great job of telling a story of the PCs rising in significence, from the almost incidental saviors of Kenabres to mighty heroes who's deeds will be written in the books of history.
The second part of the adventure is a dungeon crawl. Though it's most certainly a solid one, it feels like a step down after the mass combats involving hundreds that the adventure started with.Most of the dungeon is, I feel, not really necessary. Once the PCs go down into the basement level, though, things become much more fun and unique.
The bottom line is that this adventure reads fun and looks fun to play. It's doing something that was never quite done before in an AP, and it pulls it off very well. An excellent adventure that is maybe a bit weakened by a bit too long of a dungeon crawl in the end.
It's quite good actually... but it's not what it proclaims itself to beLord Snow —
This is the first AP plug in by Legendary games that I read, and I got it because there's been quite a large gap in the AP schedule with no new books... and I needed my fix.
Anyway, the concept of the book sounds great - enliven the journey in "Sword of Valor" by creating a string of somewhat related events which will replace random encounters, making the path to Dresen more fun to play through.
Well, I kind of have to say, the book failed on that front. The book is divided into 7 sections, each of them detailing a single encounter on the road.
It's not that there aren't places where this PDF shines - one excellent section has the PCs get caught in the intrigue of a corrupt commander in the ranks of the crusaders who abandoned some of his forces to die, and another has them taking true leadership roles by making sure the inhabitants of a small town flee to safety. The final encounter is interesting, too. However, most of the new encounters are really just like random encounters that a GM rolled before the session and so was able to foreshadow them a bit.
There is one more flaw in the design that I want to mention before I get to the good stuff - and that is repetitive content.
So I believe the book fails at it's selling premise - to make the journey to Drezen more interesting and varied. Several themes and encounters in it are too similar to what's already going on in the adventure, and many of the encounters are really nothing more than a fight againt a random monster.
All in all I'd say the book is much closer to 4 stars than 3, as the stat blocks, map, monster and artifact are all very solid, and there is some good adventuring content that WILL enhance the journey. However, I feel like several questinable desicsions were made here, including the deja vu inducing encounters and meta plot. Mostly it's that most of the encounters really are just random - "you walk along the road when a *rolls dice* drake pounces you!" has been replaced by "you walk along the road when suddenly you feel cold, and a drake pounces you!", and that's just not enough to be considered a serious improvement, at least in my opinion.
I would still recommend this book to anyone interested in some neat ideas to improve their already excellent campaign. However, I really hope that in future similar products Legendary Games would bring something tighter and more focused than this.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #70: The Frozen Stars (Reign of Winter 4 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Aliens! Dragons! Mass battles!Lord Snow —
This adventure is truly good.
Asides the obvious excitement about the adventuring location and all the awesome encounters it enables, the adventure is built really well.
After a forgettable crawl through another version of the Hut, the PCs emerge into a world not their own, a fact that becomes quickly apparent as they encounter aliens riding on the backs of weird, semi humanoid drakes. The adventure quickly ramps up by throwing the PC into the midst of a deciding battle between two warring factions.
Many people liked the battle because the PCs can theoratically choose which side to join, but honestly it seems like much more planning went into designing a fun encounter for PCs who side with the good guys, as the bad guys encounters are rather lame. I would have actually like to see the page count dedicated to something else.
The second half of the adventure is a nice little travel section followed by a more than decent crawl with many dragons in it, in a fortress hidden within an iceberg.
All in all a great, unique adventure, that would have stood out in any other AP, but kinda gets overshadowed by part #5 of this one. Still worthy of great praise.
ONLY for the nostalgicLord Snow —
Unless you are prone to nostalgia, this book is not for you.
I have read White Plume Mountain and played (and later read too) The Tomb of Horrors. If you never played these adventures but want to know what the fuss is all about, know this: the fuss is mostly about these adventures being "first". In the early days of D&D these might have been remarkable. Today, I'd describe them as unplayable.
Take that tomb full of horrors for example. It's literally nothing more than a list of arbitrary death traps. Many parts of the adventure look like this: "there are two identical doors in this hallway. One leads into area 16, and the other into a black hole. Anyone who opens the second door gets sucked in and immediately dies. No save".
If that sounds like fun to you, or if you really crave some old school action, go ahead. If you just want a good adventure, Paizo has dozens of much better dungeon crawls than these.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #73: The Worldwound Incursion (Wrath of the Righteous 1 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Wrath of the Righteous starts with a bangLord Snow —
A first adventure in a campaign always had a strain on it to be extra good - to capture the attentions of the players and get them involved with the going-ons of the campaign. It's where some of the most important NPCs will be introduced, and perhaps some of the AP's central themes.
On this fronts, the adventure delivers in spades. The literally ground breaking opening shot of the adventure later leads to the PCs finding themselves needing to relay on each other to survive and get to safety. In addition, several interesting NPCs are in the rough spots with the PCS, sharing the adventure with them and hopefully developing meaningful relationships.
Unfortunately the first actual encounters are not very good, just "here are huge vermin, kill them" type of fights. I might change that into something more engaging.
Soon, the adventure turns into a cool sandbox of the PCs moving in the disaster radius of a ruined city. Plenty of cool encounters will keep them busy and ensure they see from up close the horrors that a victory for the demonic horde might bring. Eventually the PCs will help the defenders of the city in what would amount to the most epic fights 5th level PCs ever experienced (CR 11, with the PCs expected to emerge victorious). Excellent adventure and excellent way to start a mythic campaign.
Other than the adventure we get a nice article, a couple of OK monsters... and the stat block of a CR 27 demon lord!! I can't stress enough how cool that stat block is. This guy would wipe the floor with 20th level PCs quicker than you can say "But PCs are really powerful". A truly epic and intimidating beastie, this one. Well fit stat block for one of the lords of the abyss.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #72: The Witch Queen’s Revenge (Reign of Winter 6 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Adventure is a grind, with plenty of saving gracesLord Snow —
As the last adventure in what will be written in gaming history as one of the wildest, weirdest published campaigns ever, "The Witch Queen's Revenge" faces the challenging prospect of being worthy as a finisher.
Well... it nearly is. The outline of the adventure - that is, the basic structure of the story - is really good. The PCs delve deep into the numerous pocket dimensions accessible through the dancing hut of Baba Yaga, collecting the keys to free the Witch Queen from her imprisonment. The nature of the keys is very unique, and should provide a nice backbone to the story of the adventure.
However, unfortunately, the adventure quickly gets lost in a grind of fight after fight after fight after fight. There's really only a single NPC that's not meant to be fought in the adventure, and one part also allows the PCs to ally themselves with a tribe of locals, but that's about it. Every single other creature encountered simply attacks the PCs without provocation or sometimes even without much of a reason. What's worse is that the fights are sometimes very grindy themselves - like fighting 10 (!) CR 9 creatures at once - imagine how long that would take (that fight would have been better designed if the creatures were presented as a troop). Many other fights are very easy - like fighting a single CR 13 creature, for example. These fights are really nothing more than speed bumps in the way of a level 15 part of adventurers - are they just there to give the characters more XP? it's better to just hand it out as story awards.
So sadly, the adventure mostly amounts to 6 separate, unrelated fetch quests that involve a TON of fighting and nearly nothing else. The themes of the locations are OK, but nothing mind blowing. While some of the fights are either grindy or speed bumps, some other fights look challenging and unique. All in all the adventure would have been pretty bad because of it's underlining design, except that paizo products are never actually BAD. so the adventure itself gets 3 stars, due to many neat little touches but an overall not very fun adventure.
What pushes me to make a 4 star review are the articles - more specifically, the "continuing the campaign" article, which goes above and beyond previous articles of it's kind to really create an awesome mythic campaign for GMs to develop, one that fits the themes of 'Reign of Winter" very well. It sparks the imagination, and gives an insight to one of Golarion's numerous secrets (how the winter in Irrisen is maintained). This article is superb. As a bonus, Baba Yaga's stat block is nice, and gives us a peek at mythic rules.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #71: Rasputin Must Die! (Reign of Winter 5 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Unavailable
This adventure simply cannot be praised enough.Even For those of us GMs who knew it was coming months in advance, this thing was so filled with awesome surprises that I required a couple of days to process this all after reading it.
I don't know if Iv'e ever seen such a risky, might I even say daring, product from a company as large and established as Paizo. Sure, some small, new companies would sometimes try to break it by standing out with a unique product catering to a specific taste.. but on a flagship product of a major company? that's new.
Written by history pro Brandon Hodge, this adventure delivers well on some of the world war 1 themes, with tranches, burned villages and just an overall feel of desolation. For strangers visiting Earth from the outside, Earth will certainly seem like a grim place at that time of history.
I really wish we could have walked around Earth a bit more, exploring battlefields or war torn cities or something like that, but I suppose the more you expose PCs to the people of earth, the more history continuity issues you create, and I kind of like the idea of "keeping it real" by just ensuring most of the world is unaware of the PCs arrival.
Besides, Mr. Hodge is easily one of the best encounter designers out there, and as usual, his "dungeon crawl" in this adventure is just stuffed full of awesome fights, interesting locations and a not inconsiderable number of NPCs to interact with. Those who read Brandon's previous AP installment, "Dead heart of Xin" will find a repetition of several templates, like a evil creature disguised as a friendly NPC (though this time the disguise is much better than last time and I'll sure it'll shock many players), or a powerful spellcaster boss who sends his image to harass the PC during the adventure. Those themes worked well in "dead heart of Xin" and they work well here, too.
This adventure is so good, that I can now say without a doubt Reign of Winter is the second best AP (after Curse of the Crimson Throne), and that even if people are not crazy about Irrisen or the rest of the AP in general, this adventure might be reason enough to play the entire thing.
Just imagine the look on their faces when they face a tank and dozens of soldier wielding firearms and realize where they might be...
As a bottom line, let me just say that I am so excited Paizo was willing to take this risk, and now that Iv'e seen what kind of performance they are capable of in the new territories Beyond the Realm of Wacky, I want and hope to see more in the future. Kodues to everyone involved in the creation of this adventure.
Repeated plot structure and understatement bog this downLord Snow —
I hold Dave Gross's stories of Jeggare and Radovan in rather high esteem, and I most certainly enjoyed "Prince of Wolves", the first book in their series (I also read about their adventures in Westcrown, in the Council of Thieves adventure path, which I also enjoyed a great deal). Something about this concept of a sort of a fantasy Sherlock Holmes with a twist really sparks my interest, and the writing is always excellent.
However this time, I think the story is a bit of a miss in several aspects(WARNING - MASSIVE BOOK SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!!!)
1) Understatement. Some of the things Radovan and his boss encounter during this story are serious, high end D&D stuff - for example, an ancient green dragon, and one of the most powerful demons from the bestiary. While those monsters should fill me, the reader, with awe and fear, they really don't. Because, as it seems, the characters themselves aren't all that afraid.
I felt much more afraid for Radovan when he challenged that Lycantrope for a duel in "Prince of Wolves" than when he faced dozens of demons in this book. To me, that shows that this time around Dave Gross went SO over the top with the bad guys, that I wasn't really able to buy into the story. Certainly, the way some of the most terrifying monsters in the game were described was lackluster. I can get the Jeggare would describe everything in his dry, pragmatic, understated way... but Radovan's chapters are written like that, too, and the minor characters also act totally unintimidated.
2) Repeating story structure. The story in this book is remarkably similar in many aspects to "The Prince of Wolves", to the point where one wonders if we'll ever get a different story with these characters. It begins with the pair delving deep into a new land to find someone Jeggare holds dear, who's footsteps disappeared some time ago. By the end of the story, Radovan exposes an ability to transform into a powerful devil, which saves him during the last fight, a seemingly friendly noble is exposed as a traitor, and the story ends with both the main characters displaying a new level of affection to each other, and a witty one liner by one of them. Oh, and let's not forget to mention that once more Radovan is torn between lust for a sexy, adventurous woman with an ulterior motive, to his true affection to a more worthy woman. Kind of feels like a pattern.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #66: The Dead Heart of Xin (Shattered Star 6 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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high level dungeon crawling done rightLord Snow —
Don't wanna sound like a broken record, but the "Shattered Star" AP really delivered on the dungeons, and "Dead Heart of Xin" really is worthy as the latest of them.
After reading the previous adventure in the AP, I really thought it would be impossible to top it, but this adventure takes the "crazy" lever and turns it up a further notch. PCs will get to Save The City, in a truly epic, high level scene, and then will hustle off to a strange and magnificant dungeon that is sure to give any party a run for their money. This adventure is NOT a cake walk.
And the flavour is wonderful. Xin is the most evocative villain Iv'e seen in an AP in recent years (the stat block does him justice, too!), and he is given enough of a spotlight to make the final fight memorable. In too many APs the villain is encountered the very first time in the very last combat of the last module, not really giving the PCs time to grow to love to hate him/her. No trouble of that sort here, as the PCs wonder through Xin's sick mind as well as through his haunted palace risen from the deeps in this module, and get to know him and the tragedy of his death.
All in all just a wonderful adventure - probably the best high level adventure Iv'e seen since the climax of Kingmaker.
I know many people feel that yet another dungeon crawl was a lackluster way to finish the AP, due to probable exhuastion from dungeons the party might have after going through the previous 5 adventures, but given that this was the stated format of the AP I can't see how this would be held as a negative for the adventure.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #69: Maiden, Mother, Crone (Reign of Winter 3 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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exciting premise that gets muddled by being a dungeon crawlLord Snow —
So many cool things about this adventure make me want to give it 5 starts, honestly. The first couple of parts in the adventure are amazing and cool and wierd and unique. However, once the PCs start exploring dungeons, the fun stops.
The dungeons are nothing special. There are rooms, and monsters, and you walk into the rooms and kill the monsters. It's routine, there are zero twists (I'm sorry, the "three linked dungeons" thing just isn't enough), and the entire section is longer than it should be.
The themes of this AP are just not very good with long, classic feeling dungeouns, so this adventure dosen't work. Next one sounds more interesting!
Good story about atutomatonsLord Snow —
SPOILER FREE REVIEW
"Blood of the City" is a tense, action filled adventure involving intrigue, friendhip, death and tragedy. It is actualy very good as a thriller, which is what I'd expect out of a Pathfinder Novel, the fights are described expertly (nearly as good as in Death's Heratic), the story is unpredictable in a good way, and in it I probably found the best, most plausible translation of game mechanics into a story from any of the Pathfinder Tales line (admittadly i didn't get around to reading many of them yet).
To sum up, "Blood of the City" is actualy a very enjoyable story and I read the last 1/3 of it in one tension filled sitting. It's oh so regretable that it's a story about atuomatons, not people.
The book has not emotional hook whatsoever. None of the characters seems to react as a human would, to anything. The main character is as emotionaly dead as the white stone from which Magnimar is built. While she experiences major changes and revelations in the book, we get no emotional response from her - her inner world, the way she experiences things and feels them, is hidden from the reader. The book feels more like a dry recounting of events than an actual story. Kind of like how a history teacher sounds when lecturing about world war 2 - it's supposed to be a grand story about the largest war the world has ever seen, but you don't experience it that way. Her companions are all not very well rounded characters and we only get to see very rare, short glimpses to their personalities.
To be fair, the book actualy address the issue - many characters call out the POV, Luma Derahxi, for being very guarded with her emotions. At one point a character even complains that Luma was "able to give an accurate description of a room and eveything that was in it... but of how the terrible things that happened in the room effected her, she gave no hint..." That's fine by me as a character trait, but why can't the reader learn about the inner world of the character?
Maybe Author Robin D Laws knows exactly what he is doing and it's all a descision he's made to help portray the character - if so, it's an impressive echievment, and from what little he's shown of character development I actual think he can do it very well, except that he maybe finds it not very interesting. The end result, unfourtanatley, is that my enjoyment of the book was decreased dramaticaly, which is a real shame because the book had such great potential.
Will I recommend this book? No, I have to say I wouldn't. But I certainly would try to read another of Laws' books and see if I can find a liking to it, because the potential for greatness is certainly there. Unless you are activley looking for a story set in Magnimar or anything, I'd skip "blood of the city", and give some of the other books in this line a try.
If you managed to forgive me that horrible pun and are reading this, know that "Dark Oak" is a fine adventure. It is presented in a very clean and pleasent style, stat blocks are well organized, and some excellent bookmarking allows to easily nevigate the PDF. The map of the location looks like it was drawn with a pencil on a piece of paper and then scanned, but all the lines are stright and precise and the outcome is very readable and easy to use - there's even a version for use of the PCs as a player handout (even though I'm not sure why a GM would just hand the players a map of a location they don't know...).
As to the content of the adventure itself, other reviewrs already went into great detail about it, so just read their informative reviews. Here I will say that I am planning on using this adventure in my own game, as it is short, and has a nice mix of roleplay and combat.
When I look at the price tag and the length of this adventure (very cheap and very short) and compate with, say, a Pathfinder Society scenario, I am impressed with the quality and value in this product. Obviously in many technical aspects this can't compete with a Paizo product, but if you are looking for a nice side quest in the swamps, this should be just O.K ;)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #67: The Snows of Summer (Reign of Winter 1 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Excellent, but not a very good FIRST adventureLord Snow —
This adventure is excellent. Well designed encounters, good thematic style and really an all around cool (pun intended) experience. I'm sure any group could have great fun with this.
My only issue with the adventure is that it fails to fill it's part as the first installment of an AP. Sure, it sets the tone of the "winter" theme quite nicely, but fails on many other fronts. Here are some examples:
1) plot hook - the plot hook that should get the AP started, the one that should send the PCs to explore the forest where the first part of the adventure takes place, is VERY thing. I mean it's nothing more than, "someone you [the PC's] never heard about before is in trouble, and there's money in going out to help her, so...". In comparison to previous APs, this just really isn't all that impressive. The first moments of the game should involve players, but it with something like an immediate action scene or by being about something the PCs personaly care about. This is a weak opening to the campaign.
2) first encounter - unlike in previous APs, when the first encounter was a great chance for the party to start learning to work togather, and was almost always some kind of cool little, action packed fight, here the first fight is... a couple of zombies shuffling in a locked caraven. Yep. That's the first time players in your campaign will be rolling initiative, to fight a 100% random, filler combat. There are so many fun, innovative encounters in the adventure that I wander how such a blend one gets the spotlight of being the first.
3) Boss fights - I am sad to see that this adventure uses the faulty mechanism of solo boss fights. I guess some people like it but as far as I'm concerned this is bad design. Bosses should be encounters with a group of mooks, or in an environment they can interact with to generate an advantage and disable the PCs, whereas in this adventure they kind of just wait for the PCs in 10x10 rooms, alone. Kind of disappointing.
Again, let me stress that this adventure is EXCELLENT as just a fun Pathfinder game. As a first adventure in a campaign it fails to deliver in multiple fronts.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #65: Into the Nightmare Rift (Shattered Star 5 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Thouroughly enjoyable dungeonLord Snow —
In the fine tradition of Shattered Star, this is an awesome dungeon crawl. Only reason I dropped a star off of my rating here is that it is relativley short on anything other than stright up crawling through a series of cool, room by room encounters. It certainly has the right feel for a high level dungeon crawl- everything from the location to the atmosphere to the sotry feels sufficently epic. Unlike some other chapter in the shattered star AP which I felt were rather standard in their difficulty level, this one is going to TOUGH in the PCs with some of the hardest encounters in the campaing so far.
Great dungeon, I'm sure it will be a hackload of fun to play through, but it lacks that "something special" to elevate it. For example, "Curse of the Lady's Light" (Shattered Star #2) had tons of roleplay potential and the entire dungeon felt alive, belivable and magical, and the inclusion of Grey Maidens was handled very well. "The Doomsday Door", the previous adventure in this AP, had a memorable villain that the PCs learned about during the adventure and that provided a very satisfying finale to the dungeon. Here, there's just one cool room after another.
Far too wide, not deep at allLord Snow —
Some stories are like a well - small and ver confined, but tou can delve deeper and deeper into them just for the delight of finsing out when will you reach the bottom. This book is more like what and ice skating stadium would look like after the ice melts. Sure, it will be the size of a like but the depth of the water would only be about a couple inches.
I have stated my expectations out of Pathfinder Novels in other reviews - to be short, paltable, self contained, action packed stories. While other books in the line that Iv'e read certainly deliverred, City of the Fallen Sky fell way short.
Not a single character in the story is "real" in any way. They are shallow cardboard cutouts. The one character that had potential to create suspense and interest was a rouge in service of the villain, who by circumstances found himself working with the good guys. For the first couple of chapters it looked like he was going to have a complicated relatinship of mutual mistrust with the other members of the group while still being forced to work togather, he quickly turns out to just be a Nice Guy. That reduced a lot of the possible tention and mind-games potential in the story.
The main character, while presented as a super genuis, cunning alchemist, is really stuipd. He never comes up with any good idea and his companions - unaducated as they are - outsmart him at every turn. He is constantly put to shame and finds himself the last to realise many things during the journey. He's almost never the one to save the day. I guess that bothers me because I was expecting the POV to actualy be what he attested himself to be, but as it stands I just think he is really unlikable and unintersting.
The book has many, many "cool" elemtns - Numeria and the Sky City being only a couple of those. The story is packed full with unique environments, unusual magic items and bizzare monsters. I like that, except for the fact that the cool elements are delivered in such a "meh" fashion that they failed to grab me. The book never quite provokes the sense of wonder that it should about those "cool" factors, and that really brings the expirience down.
All in all, the weakest novel Iv'e read in quite a while.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #64: Beyond the Doomsday Door (Shattered Star 4 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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seems like a fun adventureLord Snow —
As a dungeon, Windsong Abbey proves to be fun and cool, and it has it all: exploration, traps, a wide array of baddies to fight, a fully developed history. However, it also has some very nice additions to it that send it over the top into more than just a solid crawl:
1) multiple ways to deal with several parts of the dungeon (many monsters can be interacted with in ways other than fighting, any number of alliances and relationship may be created)
2) the first part of the crawl is more dynamic than usual and allows PCs to get creative, resulting in either a long fight, constantly moving from area to area, or any number of subtler ways to deal with a large group of foes
3) The BBEG is a fleshed out character and the PCs get to learn about him before facing him, and they can even choose to try to set him back on the right path instead of killing him - that's a very nice breath of fresh air
4) the support article on the Qllipoth is not only very cool, it also features the stats of Yasamoth (CR 24), one of the most powerful Qlippoth in existance, and even better.... Yasamoth himself makes an appearance at the end of the adventure! exciting stuff.
5) boos fights are handled very well - no major boss is encounterd without a group of diverse goons helping it. I like this style
If every dungeon would be as good as this one, no one would have ever complained about crawling being boering and repetitive.
EDIT: forgot to mention why I knocked off a star. While this dungeon seems like a bunch of fun it could use a little trimming. Some rooms and encounters are a little redundant - for example there are two adjecant rooms, each with exactly the same monsters, both using exactly the same tactics... Why would the PCs need to go through two identical encounters? the second one only deminishes he first. Probably can be solved with ease by just removing some encounters, though.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #62: Curse of the Lady's Light (Shattered Star 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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a GREAT crawlLord Snow —
So here we are - after crawling and crawling and crawling through the first adventure, we get the second one in te path, Curse of the Lady's Light. While the previous module was good, this one is really great. This module is kind of a showcase about how a classic dungeon crawl can be really great.
Even though it's a long romp through 10 ft. wide corriders filled with monsters out to get you, this module is chocked full with fun, inventive encounters. I can't imagine any room in the dungeon being uniteresting, and that's a very good thing. the environment is just special enough to be intresting without getting too crazy, and numerous traps and roleplay oppertunities really break the monotone of "enter a room, fight the ancient Thasselonian guardian".
Also, the added bestiary, essay about Torag and essay about the Grey Maidens are all incredible. I don't read the fiction so can't comment on that.
Not enough funLord Snow —
DISCLAIMER: this is a very good book
OK, so this is a very interesting specimen. A book about Nidal, the land of sado-masochist priests of shadow? crazy, right?
well, not if Mrs. Mericel has a say on it!
THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
anyway, "Nightglass" is less a novel than two, loosley related short stories about the same character - two completely separate plots, each of them starting and concluding within 10-14 episodes if I remember correctly. As such, the story is much less the focus in this book. the real focus is the environment, the setting, and the main character. Let's examine them!
Later on, as he ages, Isien becomes a really brooding, thoughtful kind of guy. He refrains from combat even when the situation screams for him to use his force to the greatest effect possible, and he spends much of his time thinking sad things and trying to find his true self. While that makes him intresting to read about, it's not really what I am looking for in Pathfinder fiction, and so based on this I knocked a star off from my review. That simply reflects my personal preferences in this kind of book. If you want a read that might make you think, then consider this a 5 stars review.
greatLord Snow —
The Pathfinder Fiction line of books are the kind you pop like candy: they are short, action packed and self contained. They have the extra duty of representing the Pathfinder RPG rules system.
Death's Heretic delivers on all fronts. The story is a joy to read through and author James L. Sutter did a commendable job of representing an impressive variety of rarely explored themes and subjects in the RPG genre.
As far as dialog and characterizing goes, the book manages to not be BAD, but it's never quite believable. The reader can feel very well that he is reading not about actual people who live in an actual medieval setting, but about a story of those people told by a modern storyteller.
The only further complaint I have is that the book seems to suffer a light case of the Smurfette Syndrom - check it out in TVtropes for more details of you are not familiar with the subject, but basically what I mean is that 50% of the world's population is severely under-represented - I am talking about the female half. There are only two women in the story who ever speak (there are cooks and whores and maids but they are not actual characters, only background details), one of which is the romantic interest of the main character and the second is rightfully named "The Harlot". so while the former is an actual character with depth and a personality, the latter is a very charismatic whore who slept her way to the top and is presented as little more than a seductive element for the main character. Furthermore, sex is dealt with in a rather juvenile way.
Those complaints above are really minor, though. The dialog, while not 100% on the spot, is still flowing and interesting, and each character talks in a distinct way that makes it feel familiar. Also, I don't read pulpy fantasy in order to find a good example of fair representation of women in litreture, so I don't really mind about the second thing either.
At the bottom line, Death's Heretic is clever, well paced, enjoyable, sometimes even suspenseful, and ultimately very satisfying.