Sign in to create or edit a product review.
Starfinder Adventure Path #2: Temple of the Twelve (Dead Suns 2 of 6)Paizo Inc.
Add Print Edition $22.99
Add PDF $15.99
A Great Second EntryThe Good Brother —
Temple of the Twelve starts delivering big on the promises of Star Finder; namely by bringing a great mix of technology, magic, planet hopping, and history together for a unique story that could only be told in a world where starships and spell-slingers are side by side.
My review of Incident At Absalom Station commented that it was a bit of a bland space opera. Temple of the Twelve wraps up the Incident well and helps push players to start exploring the Golarion System. Much of the adventure is dedicated to interaction and investigation. There is also an overland expedition (which seems surprising in a world with space-ships but is well explained). This could have easily been a rehash of Pathfinder expeditions but John Compton makes it feel like a proper sci-fi expedition, replete with strange creatures, ancient ruins, and opposing parties. The book has a feel of Indiana Jones and Avatar, and I have to admit I got some flashes to the mighty Masks of Nylarahotep as well.
Overall, character and combat encounters are designed to handle a wide variety of characters and play styles. Mysteries are robust and can be solved, ignored, or avoided in many clever ways. Opponents are interesting and slotted well. This is an adventure that will serve any group very well.
Space Opera Mixed With Fantasy To Make a Unique Product.The Good Brother —
Many people have already commented on the various changes in the rules, what is different from Pathfinder, what holds the same, and what goes big. The tome is so chock-full of rules that it'd be impossible to go over them all in this review format. So here are the highlights:
- The theme goes big, and succeeds. This is more than just a space opera - it takes all of the homages that Pathfinder used to classic sci-fi (Burroughs, et al.) - and builds functioning space empires off of them. This is not just a retread of tired science-fiction tropes (declining empire, upstart corporations, etc.) - it's a re-imagining of what makes Space Opera work.
- It's a rule-set based on, and almost identical to, Pathfinder. As such, it's easy for anyone who is familiar with Pathfinder to pick up and play. But it is not a re-skin of Pathfinder. They have changed rules, making additions and creating a rule-set better suited to science fiction than fantasy. This is not simply a new source-book for Pathfinder; it's a new rule set that feels like a natural evolution from Pathfinder.
- The merger of magic and technology feels right. Rather than fighting each other, or stepping on the toes to achieve the same thing, they occupy unique and interesting spheres.
All in all, if a Space Opera RPG, tech-fantasy RPG, or Pathfinder-plus RPG appeals to you, this is worth your money.
Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)Paizo Inc.
Add Print Edition $22.99
Add PDF $15.99
A Robust But Lacking Start To StarfinderThe Good Brother —
Incident at Absalom Station is a robust introduction to Starfinder, highlighting what makes the stellar new system unique and showing off the fun elements of the game. Further, the story is playable and usable, providing a great template for any sort of party or any types of players. Unfortunately, from a story perspective, the story fails to "go large." While it serves as a systematic sampler and introduction, it doesn't do anything new or exciting in the idea of Space Operas.
What Makes It Pop
The opening scene has a pretty standard hook, but opens with a strong action scene. The party is thrust into conflict and that conflict shapes the later adventures. From there it launches into an open-ended diplomacy and investigation scene, with the party given sides to choose or ignore while cracking a mystery.
The adventure uses to good effect the unique elements of Starfinder. It merges technology and magic in seamless fashion, having Android administrators bump elbows with Undead diplomats, spellcasters and hackers work together, and spirits and aliens haunting the same dark corners.
In so doing, it also incorporates many of Starfinder's rule sets, including skills, multiple types of combat, and myriad creatures and items.
Finally, it has an element of mystery that will hopefully propel party to greater exploits (And the rest of the AP). While much of the adventure relies on the party choosing their better angels, there's enough to justify a party of any make-up getting involved.
The party is called on to investigate who started a gang conflict out of territory. The mystery is robust, with multiple paths to get to an answer. The adventure assumes lightly the players will pick a particular side, but does not require it, and provides for options if the players choose another side or none at all.
The adventure is loaded with a showcase of the new rule set. Multiple options to use all type of skills; ground combat, space combat, and zero-g combat; undead enemies haunting ancient parts of weapons while alien creatures from the Drift serve as counterpart; and all manner of new races bumping elbows with elves and dwarves.
What Brings It Down
Much of the adventure is a dungeon crawl and - at that - a fairly bland one. It's hard not to compare this to Rise of the Runelords; fair or not, both are launching product lines. Rise of the Runelords took long-standing tropes and used them, but breathed fresh life into them, creating a vibrant coastal town with intrigue, ancient weapons, bitter revenge, family drama, and a touch of humor. Here, its' a standard opening to nearly every space opera game, but without many of those same touches of originality, vibrancy, or uniqueness. It also calls on some of the unique flair from earlier Pathfinder Adventure Paths, which seems duplication more than homage.
The party is sent to explore a mysterious returned derelict and asteroid. It turns out the crew was attacked by a series of strange aliens from the Drift. This has been the opening of many Space Opera adventures, so little about this section feels new.
The asteroid exploration has no real villain acting against the party, and little dynamism. The party moves from room to room, killing monsters and looting the treasure therein. But the adventure makes it clear that they are being recorded the entire time and - with repeated references to a modern legal system and questions of ownership in earlier parts of the adventure - it seems really odd that the party could keep the loose change they found by rifling through the pockets of dead crew members.
Incident at Absalom Station benefits from starting with a bang, building interesting connections for the party, and setting the new Starfinder Pact Worlds well. It sadly fails to tread any new ground for Space Operas, but if the base it lays here is used properly it could lead to a roiling adventure. All in all, I'd recommend buying it for anyone interested running a Starfinder game, especially for the information on Absalom Station and the additional bestiary.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Pathfinder Unchained (OGL)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $9.99
Neat Ideas To Improve GamesThe Good Brother —
It's really nice to get a book that delivers what it promises. Pathfinder Unchained delivers all manner of variant rules for nearly every part of the game. Some are to simplify things, some are significant changes to core rules, and some are welcome changes to rules that have become sacred cows.
Buy this book if you are interested in having a number of variants available, to pick, choose, and modify as you see fit. As noted in other reviews, this is a toolbox. It's something to take pieces out of, and use as you progress. It's great for trying out in one-shots, or in smaller groups, and then expanding as needed to full campaigns.
Not everything herein will be your cup of tea. I highly doubt I will use all of the rule changes presented in this book in various games. I still think they're valuable. It's interesting to see various rules cut apart and reworked; at the very least it gives you an idea how those rules fit into the overall scheme of the game.
I will add that I would like to see more classes and rules examined under this lens. I don't know that I'd use many of them, but it's a good way to think about the game and how rules interact with each other.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #91: Battle of Bloodmarch Hill (Giantslayer 1 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $15.99
A Solid Start - But A Bit DisjointedThe Good Brother —
The adventure is a combination of a well-written mystery and a dramatic battle sequence that kicks off the overall campaign. Both are strong sections and worth playing; however they do not link together as tightly as one would hope.
The first half of the adventure is a well-written mystery. There are ample leads and clues that the PCs can independently follow, and there's no linear progression required. The NPCs encountered are well-fleshed out, interesting, and engaging. Characters are rewarded for following clues, and not just combat or brute force.
The second half is a tense battlefield. This is a bit more linear than the mystery, but players can move through it, fight their skirmishes, and affect the outcome of the fight on their own terms. It is written as an ongoing battle, and presents more choices than the PCs simply getting orders from NPCs and rushing from fight to fight. There are even non-combat interactions available, if the PCs pursue them.
The real problem is that regardless of the outcome of the player's investigation, the battle will play out in much the same fashion. The switch between the two will likely feel a bit jarring. This section of the adventure may need to be reworked to be a bit more natural, which can be frustrating. This would be the main downside of the adventure.
One modest complaint is that information about the town is found in several other sources. Nothing critical is lacking from this book, and other information is available in the free player's guide, but it still is referenced in the adventure itself as useful information.
Overall, this is a strong start to a campaign that has a "classic" feel and will likely engage PCs in the area and the story.
Solid but UnsurprisingThe Good Brother —
This adventure is a solid piece of work, with plenty to keep the party busy but nothing that will really wow the players. I recommend it if you are looking for a modest "creepy village" motif, but not for a major part of a campaign or a unique chapter in a saga.
The Good: This adventure has a fully-developed back-water village in which your PCs may muck about. It is a place with several dark secrets, unique locations, and a thriving culture. Reading this adventure you get a palpable feel for this village and its people. The story stems from this: There is no "must follow" storyline; rather you are given a setting and a time-line. How the PCs interact with it is up to them, and there are multiple paths that depend on their course of action. There is also clues to the deeper mystery, which the PCs may uncover as they see the weirdness about them. Overall, it is a solid sandbox adventure, with creepy locations and developed NPCs.
So Why Only Three Stars (or the Bad)? Much of this adventure simply fails to "wow" either the GM or the players. Most of the encounters are simple fights or straight out of the Bestiaries. There are no surprises. The "Grand Reveal" is rather cliche and the fight that follows is exceedingly difficult. My players did not find it to be that exciting. The village, while fully developed, is not terribly unique. There are a few minor details (such as the food they eat, or the manner of their worship) that are memorable. But this flavor does not really establish this setting from any other "creepy village." Many of the horror tropes end up being unfortunately cliche, and the mystery ends in the way that most people would expect it to.
If I may be permitted a bad analogy, this adventure attempts to be the original "Wicker Man" but ends up being a regular epsiode of the "X-Files." There is a lot that can be used here, but nothing that makes it a must-have or must-play.
Exactly What Is PromisedThe Good Brother —
This adventure is dripping with flavor. From the start "On The Blood" all the way through to the heart of the jungle, it feels like a storied journey. Not only must the party contend with fantastic enemies, but piranah, mosquitos, and illness are omnipresent too.
The Good: As mentioned above, it's got great flavor. This is coupled with a neat fantasy approach to river travel (and all the complications that go with it), a neat and subtle underlying story, and a strong compliment of NPCs and encounters. My party was never bored playing it, and always eager to see what camce next. The writing is solid and the layout is generally good, though at times it became difficult to juggle the many small maps. The end is a great sandbox where each party can react differently to a confusing situation. I am sure players will surprise GMs with their solutions.
The Bad: While the end is diverse, most of the adventure is dedicated to a boat ride. This is the classic rail-road scenario: The encounters happen generally at preset times, and the PCs are under the command of an NPC captain. Now, this isn't too heavy handed and those encounters are interesting (it is what they signed up for!). But it did feel like the players were simply waiting for the next encounter as the boat moved along. Further, the ending is a touch anti-climactic, and likely ends with the PCs moving down the same river just came up.
Overall, I recommend the adventure and think it will please most parties.
Pathfinder Module S1: Clash of the Kingslayers (OGL)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $9.99
Unique Module With Unique FeelThe Good Brother —
This module is one of the most interesting concepts for an adventure I've seen. It moved away from common fantasy tropes, which does require some preparation. But with a little front-end work, it can fit into most campaigns.
The good: It's got an engaging back-story, one of betrayal, death, and revenge. Similarly, it's got a compelling villain, with whom the party has a chance to interact. The party also has the chance to interact with the populace, and actions in the beginning of the adventure can affect the end. The encounters are exciting, and challenging for a party. The new monsters presented were well-received by my party. Overall, there is plenty to keep a party busy. The quality of the writing, printing, and maps are all quite good.
The bad: All the items to compel a party to keep playing also mean the module is crowded. The details are sparse, and much of it needs to be fleshed out further. Many of the NPCs are given a few meager words of description. Several elements seem a bit rushed. This means that the GM will have to sit down beforehand to master the material and either 1) be prepared to improvise many minor but salient details or 2) work out such information ahead of time.
Similarly, the presentation makes the timing seem rushed. If you are not careful, your party would bounce back and forth without a real opportunity to understand their situation or even appreciate the unique living dungeon.
Finally, the hook is very sparse. The adventure seems to assume that the party will show up, notice bad things happening, and intervene because that is what adventurer's do. While high-level adventurers should be big players in a world, it will require some invention to give them a reason to care about the situation.
A Rather Generic Undead ModuleThe Good Brother —
This adventure starts with a good hook, but sadly loses steam quickly. I am afraid I would not run this again without some substantial reworking.
The Good: The adventure begins with a classic and well-done hook that is remniscent of many horror movies. Further, its back-story is unique for undead stories, and the final villain reflects this. Indeed, the ultimate villain is a refreshing change to the whispy necromancer tropes, and could become a recurring enemy if not dealt with. The production values are excellent. It has good artwork, good maps, and quality printing. You should find nothing technically wrong with it.
The Bad: After the hook, there is little to keep the adventure going. Rather than being a "town under seige" as I had initially thought, it became a rather classic dungeon crawl. And that leads to the major flaw of the adventure. The first two levels of the dungeon are part of an earlier adventure, but there is very little to change, repopulate, or otherwise make it interesting. They easily could be done away with if you do not have the adventure.
The dungeon maps provided are very poorly laid out. There is no flow and rooms feel simply tacked on. A party could easily walk from beginning to end without encountering 75% of the dungeon. This includes the major plot-points that could explain the background; my party missed that and simply assumed the undead were part and parcel of a fantasy world. Coupled with many of the monsters being common undead simply placed in a room, it makes for an underwhelming experience.
Well-Received By A Veteran CrewThe Good Brother —
This is an excellent, relatively open-ended adventure with a horror theme. I really enjoyed reading it and I really enjoyed running it.
The writing is tight, the artwork is excellent, and the maps are very helpful. It remains everything we have come to expect from Paizo.
The theme, background, and location for the adventure is very well put-together. It is internally consistent, and gives plenty of atmosphere for a GM to use in crafting a disconcerting adventure. I found it to be a great mix of useful information and open-ended ideas. I used it in a non-Golarian setting with only a few minor alterations to names.
The encounters are also well-put together and I was able to use them as written. The NPCs and monsters all fit the theme of the adventure nicely, and should prove memorable. Much of it is an homage to Lovecraft, but it is a well-rendered homage.
One thing I really enjoyed was the "sandbox" feel of the adventure. The PCs have a lot of choices to make. Some of them are illusory, but it doesn't require railroading or substantial reworking if the party decides to take a unique approach.
The party I ran it for are veterans of several horror-themed games, and all really enjoyed it. From the initial encounters which hint at an ancient evil, to the disconcerting locales that they found their characters unwillingly later drawn, this captured their imaginations wonderfully.
A great campaign setting, not just for fans of the novels. The writing is excellent (though the editing could be better), the layout is intuitive, and it contains a fantastic number of adventure ideas and famous locations.
Geographic locations are well detailed, though some items on maps are left out. Major locations have their own chapter and maps.
I particularly appreciate that the book contains the order of battle for the major armies involved, as well as the particular forces committed to key battles. Combined with the timeline, it lets DMs either recreate the battles or let the players turn the events of the war.
The only complaint is that is not standalone: You need the WoTC campaign setting and will likely want other supporting books. Not a flaw with this book, however.
As promised, it contains a good number of quality maps of famous areas from the War of the Lance.
The Good: The world map is very large and very detailed; easily spread out to track where the party is moving to and from. The smaller maps flesh out a lot of details left out of the War of the Lance books. A wide variety of maps are provided. All are very well drawn and the art is of very high quality.
The Bad: All but the world map are on 8x11 paper, single sided, so look more like handouts than maps. Many of the larger areas are not fully mapped out, only "highlights" are provided. The paper is not of durable quality, and any regular use will require lamenating them or great care.
Overall: Very useful to any campaign.