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A solid follow up, runs well in PbP


Like many GMs, I run the bulk of my games in a Play-by-Post format, and my gaming group and I have never physically met. We are, however, attempting to become the first group to ever successfully complete a Paizo Adventure Path in PbP over on Myth-Weavers.com, and Night of Frozen Shadows was our second stop on that journey.

Part One of Jade Regent, The Brinewall Legacy, was probably my personal favorite module ever. Paizo really brought its A-game on that adventure, and it flowed effortlessly from a simple kill the goblins mission to the beginnings of a globe-trotting, epic campaign to save a people and restore the honor of an exiled noble family. It was always going to be a tough act to follow.

In Night of Frozen Shadows, we have a follow up that goes for a different feel than its predecessor. Where Brinewall was tightly scripted and a bit of a railroad, Frozen Shadows takes more of a sandbox route. It was also an investigation heavy module, wherein the players seek out clues and attempt to recover an artifact important to the noble family they find themselves in service to.

Along the way are plenty of opportunities for in-depth role-playing, and some great set piece battles.

Did I mention that in this module there are ninjas and vikings at the same time? I should probably mention that. The battle where the ninja initially show themselves was a very memorable one.

Difficulty wise, I found most of the encounters in this module underpowered vs. my melee heavy group, but increasing the difficulty of these encounters was usually no tougher than adding a few more bad guys.

The end battle, however, proved to be very tough and the BBEG of the module nearly caused a TPK. We played it straight, but it was a nail biter and the PCs just barely made it out alive.

In all, though I made more modifications to this module than the last, I find that Paizo's adventures support that kind of thing, and their flexibility is a feature in my mind, not a bug.

Likewise, I thought the change of pace from the first module was also a good thing. The city of Kalsgard that served as a setting for the bulk of this module was well fleshed out in this installment and my group had fun exploring it.

The only modifications I had to make for PbP were the cutting and / or consolidating of encounters in the end dungeon, but that is pretty standard (and something I’d recommend for my fellow PbP GMs.)

In all, I'd give Night of Frozen Shadows 4.5 stars if I could, but since I already maxed out my vote for The Brinewall Legacy, and this module wasn't quite as much to my liking, I'm going to go with four. It was a solid second installment for what is shaping up to be a great campaign.

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Plays great in PbP


This was a fantastic module. I have never seen an adventure go from small encounter to full-fledged adventure to epic campaign so naturally. I also really like the way the module foreshadowed the Tian (Asian) elements in the story.

Like many GMs these days, I run my games entirely in PbP and my gaming group and I have never physically met. Because of this, I really value the artwork in an adventure path because I need it for digital "handouts," battle maps, and encounters. Again, "The Brinewall Legacy" comes through as much as I could expect.

The Adventure Paths I've read seem to all include some additional mechanics to keep the game fresh. In Jade Regent, these mechanics have to do with caravaning, which is an important sub-theme in the game.

I don't recommend the relationship mechanics, as they felt a bit "Dragon Age" for my taste. A good GM should be able to let relationships develop organically.

The caravan rules are fun, but IMHO a little too simple. In my group we use them, but rather than deciding the combat, they just influence it. They also determine the results of NPC fights in a quick and satisfactory manner. This hybrid system is working well for us.

The only other modifications I made to the module had to do with consolidating and abridging the Brinewall Castle dungeon crawl that forms the third act. I only did this because of the slower nature of PbP gaming. I also eliminated the portion of the beginning that had to do with the group meeting. Instead, I began the game right in Brinestump Marsh, and gave the PCs a short backstory to explain how they all got there. Probably not necessary at a gaming table, but in PbP this saved us literally a week of time.

The end boss of the module was also a lot of fun to role-play, and for the PCs to battle. Warning: He's tough! You might want to power him down a bit or use easier tactics if your player group is inexperienced. Mine was not, so I let them have it as published and we were a little worried about a TPK. It didn't happen, but the dice could have gone either way.

In all, it took us nine months to play through this module in PbP. We are now 3/4 of the way through Night of Frozen Shadows, and I will review that module once we complete it. So far, it is also a very good adventure.

Five stars all the way for The Brinewall Legacy. This is excellent value for your entertainment dollar.

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A wild romp through the multiverse


Death's Heretic was definitely one of the stronger examples of game world fiction that I've read, and it kept me turning pages till the end, but I was often left with a feeling of "I wish."

The strong point of the book was the engaging and well developed protagonist, Salim. A former citizen of the godless nation of Rahadoum, and a former hunter of priests, Salim finds himself in the ironic position of serving Pharasma, the Goddess of Birth, Death and Prophecy. Although the reader is sometimes caught in the position of wishing Salim would just get over himself long enough to enjoy life, he is consistently written and three dimensional. The romance he develops with the story's female lead is also well played out.

Another strong point of the book was the argument it made for atheism in a world where the gods leave no possible doubt about their existence. I want to give examples here, but since it is such a good part of the book I will leave it for the reader to discover there.

I don't read a lot of gaming fiction, but part of the reason I picked this book up was to learn more about the world of Golarion. The novel is set in the middle-eastern inspired nation of Thuvia, and I looked forward to seeing that area of Golarion developed.

Unfortunately, the story didn't go that way, instead spending much of its second act romping through various outer planes, which I thought robbed the book of some of its emotional core. I'm not a personal fan of planes traveling adventures as the outer planes are so strange that they make telling a human story difficult. They also eat up a lot of page space in descriptions of their weirdness, when I would rather have read about Salim dealing with the intriguing but undeveloped flesh and blood adversaries we are teased with early on in the story.

I would give this story four stars for the quality of writing and the very interesting protagonist, but I can't go that high for the overall review because I feel that the story never really found its center. The parts that take place on Golarion are by far the best in the book, but just as soon as we have one to appreciate, off Salim goes on another exploration / exposition of another plane of existence.

Still, I would read more of Salim's adventures. I just hope he stays a little closer to home next time.

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Edge of Anarchy in PbP


Like many gamers these days, I don't have a real life playing group, and I do my gaming online. For my schedule, what works best is Play by Post. Around six months ago I had the stupidly ambitious idea of running this adventure path in a PbP format.

So does this work? Yes... if you're willing to keep a very fast pace for a PbP game, putting up maybe ten to twelve posts a day. Otherwise the sheer size of the AP will make it an impossible task.

However, if you have the time to put in and an active group of players, I found Edge of Anarchy to be an outstanding module to run online. The excellent writing and artwork in the game make for great digital "handouts" if you have the PDF version, and I was able to cut and paste rooms from the dungeons into Photoshop and use them as battle maps in game.

I found that I could largely use the module as written, only modifying a few scenes for format. The Shingle Chase is a particularly brilliant section of the module, a wild footchase over the rooftops of Korvosa unlike anything else I'd seen in a published adventure before.

One complaint I'd have is that the PCs are continually sent back to the same NPC for missions throughout the module. Although forming a relationship with this NPC is important as the campaign wears on, I think it is a little overdone and has the potential to make the PCs feel like they are running errands. I adjusted by changing the "hook" for one of the module sections and this seemed to avoid the problem.

Also, some of the fights could stand to be a little tougher, I found myself having to modify some of the encounters in the final section in order to keep a group of 4th level characters challenged.

To be fair though, this module is written for four players using 3.5e rules, and I had five players with Pathfinder rules (monk, rogue, fighter, cleric and sorcerer.)

In all I would say Edge of Anarchy is a strong start to the AP, with a good balance of role playing and combat, and a good variety of environments and opponents. The hook to bring all the PCs into the game is excellent, as is the setting with or without the associated source book.

I will try to write further reviews for how these modules run in an online format as we get deeper into the campaign.