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Way of the Wicked—Book #3: Tears of the Blessed (PFRPG)Fire Mountain Games
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Tears of the Blessed is a very cool concept module with a lot of neat flavor. The book itself is written with style and the general outline of the adventure itself is very promising. Here's my review:
Still not liking some of the organization, and definitely disliking many parts-- To enter 2-9, you must go through 2-9a, which is detailed after the contents of 2-9-- a half-page of exposition. Stat blocks still break the page. Maps are square with almost no exception, making drawing them uninspiring.
3 stars simply for the concept alone, though the execution was lacking. This module is, despite everything I just said, still worth a read. Really don't miss it-- it has some of the coolest ideas, scenarios, areas, monsters and concepts in it, surrounded by a lot of hit-or-miss basic D&D setpieces (mass combat) that the module could have abandoned without losing anything.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #53: Tide of Honor (Jade Regent 5 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Very interestingly decorated old hat.SecSeibzehn —
The number one thing to say about Tide of Honor is that it is one of the best classic modules that Paizo has done in a long time, dressed up and made as Japanese as possible. Does it cover new ground? Not at all. Is it fun to read, well-written and engaging? Absolutely.
My definition of a classic module includes puzzles, riddles, fighting evil sorcerers, dungeon crawling, fighting bandits, and saving princesses. This book has all of that.
One of the only Paizo books to have a riddle, a 3-D item puzzle AND an honest to God maze that works even if you play Pathfinder 100% on-the-grid, Tide of Honor has a lot of good non-combat content for the downtrodden roleplay-lovers who spent the majority of Hungry Storm rolling up random encounter after random encounter. There's diplomacy, investigation, and "scenario dungeons"-- a phrase I'll use here to describe a collection of encounters your middle-high level PCs can hit any way they like, instead of the more formulaic dungeons where the PCs are expected to go through room A1 to get to A2, and A3 to get to A4. Oh, and there are formulaic dungeons too. Something for everyone (except for people who hate table-top games).
Encounter variation is extremely good. The module runs the gamut from martial to mystical encounters and even includes a puzzle encounter, something I thought was interesting. I especially enjoyed one encounter which the DM can employ against the PCs any way he would like, and the advice presented in executing this encounter stashed away in the Appendix.
The art in the book is very well done. No pieces seem lackluster, and all of them pop and depict their subjects very well. I am slowly falling in love with whomever does the pastel artwork for Paizo-- not in love enough to look up their name right now, but, seriously, they're amazing.
As far as what to look for, if your PCs enjoyed A History of Ashes, Tide of Honor has similar subject material-- Do all of these things so that you can gain enough pull to begin doing this thing, and also you are in a completely new culture that is foreign to you. If you're looking for a completely classic adventure module, Tide of Honor is the closest you're getting until Shattered Star.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #54: The Empty Throne (Jade Regent 6 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Unavailable
This review contains spoilers. And it is way too long.SecSeibzehn —
This review contains spoilers.
I really enjoyed the first 2/3rds of this book, but felt like the last part-- the final showdown and storming the castle-- wasn't even half the quality of the earlier portion. Like all high-level Paizo modules, you get introduced to your bread and butter encounter at the start and then your PCs get to face this encounter six or eight (or even more!) times by the end of the book. Not to say that this book doesn't have some really interesting encounters-- the entirety of the central portion, the Well of Demons and the Imperial Shrine, were exceptional. At the end, however, I couldn't believe that the adventure was ending that soon. It felt like there should have been a second finale, the way the module was headed.
The final encounter is really cool, design wise, but story-wise a lot of that encounter comes out of left field, many elements only introduced in this book and not at all mentioned beforehand in the series, some completely untelegraphed except for a name drop. If you've ever had a fear of running several very different high-level NPC spellcasters all in one encounter, well, be afraid of the epic conclusion of The Empty Throne.
The revelation that the Jade Regent isn't even the big bad guy-- he's just his grandson-- and the fact that this isn't even a spoiler because the first person you ask about it in Kasai can just plainly tell you this-- was extremely off-putting to me. More so was that I didn't catch onto this hint when I read #4 and #5 again over the weekend, so it really feels like a last-minute retcon. On a quick read of the stats, in book #1's flashback sequence, the Jade Regent becomes extremely large as he cuts down the old emperor-- an ability Anumurumon has, with his change shape ability, but that the Jade Regent does not. So, why the retcon, and what does it gain?
The article on Kasai and the continuing the campaign articles had some cool stuff in them, and the bestiary was pretty nice. The art in this book had some of the best and worst-- some of the character portraits look very confused and smudged. The art of the tombstone golem with it's "really evil bad guy glowy eyes" looks very silly. And then some of the half-page pieces are amazing (the opening art of the imperial shrine and a late-book picture of Feiya's fox barking at a dragon come to mind). Jared Blando delivers his very high quality maps again.
I noticed Neil Spicer had several moments written into this book where the module advises the DM on what actions Ameiko may take at this point. I felt like this was pretty cool, and wonder if there were others written in but removed during the editing process, as The Empty Throne's adventure runs a few pages long.
The final thing to mention about this book is that it was written with the goal of getting to level 16 from 13 in mind-- a goal that makes every single encounter up to 2 CRs higher than suggested for a party of four. My group has an out-- as I began to run the game after playing in it for two modules, I'll just DMPC my old PC in the last stretch-- but many groups, and especially groups where the DM, for lack of a better term, "skims it on the go", expect to see angry posts on the Paizo website ranging from "I'm supposed to make and run a whole high level NPC in this book what is this" to "The paizo writers made this module super powerful and too hard for a party of 2 monks and a sorcerer my DM showed me the book and I hate you neil spicer for TPKing us!"
TL;DR: I loved the first 2/3rds, the last 1/3rd is a let down, the support articles are great, the art is pretty good, the maps are clear, encounter design is strong but has weak points and the final encounter is going to be a nightmare to run. 3/5!
Pathfinder Adventure Path #44: Trial of the Beast (Carrion Crown 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Out of print
Great until the endSecSeibzehn —
This module has a very strong mix of roleplaying, mystery and adventure that not many modules can hope to emulate. Out of all of the Carrion Crown books, this book is the one with the strongest mystery/investigation section. It's recommendable on that alone.
The encounters are interesting, but, not much here that I find particularly memorable. There are the "expected" mid-low level stock monsters such as ghouls and trolls, and some very cool conceptual encounters that didn't translate well to my gaming table. In addition, some of the encounters are just plain mean-- which is great.
The only parts of the module I don't favor are 1) a significant amount of funds for the party are derived from stealing items from a person's home-- a person the PCs have been sent to save. They know he's likely alive, but the module expects the party has to steal everything he owns, which is distasteful. If they choose not to, it makes actual real-life sense, but now the entire group has almost no money because a majority of wealth is tied up in this mansion-- which is dumb.. and 2) the final encounter has a mechanic that's very reminiscient of a DMPC swinging in to save the day for the "weakling" (in comparison) PCs. This is also very distasteful-- I don't think anyone in my group enjoyed summoning him to save the day... especially after they almost killed the monster on their own.
A decent module-- a 3, but the investigation bumps it to 4.
Pathfinder Module: Tomb of the Iron Medusa (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Unavailable
I'm usually not a big fan of standalone modules. I kind of hate them, to be honest. They try to introduce the story as if it were a novel, or are set in beautiful and distant locations my campaign will never go to. TotIM doesn't really fall into that trap-- because, well, TotIM feels like it was written to be included a campaign. The adventure is in the tomb, not outside of it, and it's easily editable and insertable into almost any game with just minor tweaks.
The encounters in the book are all very well varied. What similar creatures the PCs encounter have their own interesting points and aren't at all duplicates. The art is good looking, and the cartography is amazingly detailed and just nice to look at. I recognized Jared Blando's cartography work from the Haunting of Harrowstone immediately, and can recommend that if you're a map fan, his maps are very good looking.
As for story, I'd say that the story in the module is fairly well encapsulated and open to improvisation, which is a good thing. Take it or leave it, it only takes up about six pages total in the entire book. The module contains a constant theme of problem solving and puzzle situations that starts from area A all the way to the last page. None of the puzzles are "beyond" the PCs or require them to know obscure facts, which is a big plus. The rooms and locations are just as interesting as some of the encounters, and a lot of detail went into minutiae in the module, which added a fantastic amount of flavor.
Things of concern: The treasure in the module is far and beyond what a normal 14th level party would be able to find. I'm glad that, for once, a module writer wasn't afraid to give the world to the PCs, but some GMs may have an issue with a character obtaining a 75,000gp magic item. My other concern is that the climax of the module is heavily reliant on a "cutscene" mechanic I wasn't too pleased with, but recognized the necessity of it as a storytelling tool.
This module is very solid. I'm impressed. I think this module will fit very nicely into Carrion Crown.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #40: Vaults of Madness (Serpent's Skull 4 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Interesting, but quickly becomes templatedSecSeibzehn —
This module has the adventurers going into Saventh-Yhi's Vaults of Madness, seeking out a way to follow up on plot hooks discovered at the climax of the last book.
This book is definitely a step up in content from the last, with each mini-dungeon containing a number of interesting encounters. The problem comes when you finally have the hindsight to realize that each dungeon has about three encounters in it, and many of them aren't really hyped up a lot with story. The ecology also feels strange. You kind of go from one encounter to the next, hitting themed streaks, but a lot of the monsters don't feel like they really live in, or have a reason to live in, the vaults they're encountered in.
It's strongly written, the roleplaying is solid, and the trademark Paizo "information the party will never learn" is fascinating. If you're coming out of City of Seven Spears, this will be a breath of fresh air.