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Enough is Enough


One of the (many) hags you murdered in the previous module has rebounded from the grave, and set upon a cross-country jaunt across Geb. You must catch up with her, and kill her... again. The party team up with a miserable death knight, who immediately delegates his entire investigation to the heroes and refuses to help for a variety of bullsh*t reasons;

"Looks like we need to investigate the witch's home!"
"Oh.. I have to go talk to the fairies. You guys do it!"

"Looks like we need to investigate the vampire's estate!"
"Oh.. It wouldn't be proper to enter without an invitation. You guys do it!"

Chapter One is a total write-off, a sloppy smorgasbord of ideas haphazardly stitched together in grotesque mockery of an adventure path. Skip this section entirely and you lose nothing.

In Chapter Two, the party reach the titular Field of Maidens. A battlefield littered with living statues who could burst into action at any moment is a memorable and harrowing setting. Unfortunately, Chapter Two is as much a shambles as Chapter One before it.

At this point, I had a moment of clarity and realised that I am only still buying these books out of habit and because I take some sick, parasitic joy in slagging off how boring and badly written they are. That stops now. I suspect this will be the last PF book I buy for the forseeable future, as I do not enjoy them any more.

Oh well.


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Smack your Witch up


Having established the Graveclaw Coven are responsible for the events of the previous volume, the PCs are off to a haunted forest to murder some hags.

Chapter One, in which the PCs assault a witch's cottage is great fun and ends with a pretty spectacular set-piece escape.

Now it's off to the squalid seaside town of Shallowshore, inhabited by lizardfolk, ghouls and lizardfolk ghouls. Here they will find another hag of the Graveclaw Coven, and this one is guilty of... tax evasion!!! I hope you like auditing witches! Hag #2 is lurking in an underwater temple, so get those swimming rules ready to go. It's OK, but not as interesting as Part One.

In Chapter Three, the PCs head to a poisonous urban sprawl to execute yet another witch. Third time's the charm right? (Nope). Here we are treated to one of Paizo's signature Unnecessary & Convoluted Subsystems! As you explore, you will accumulate Awareness Points, Edge Points and Infiltration Points. Ten Awareness Points equals a Complication. Twenty Awareness Points and the infiltration fails-but-not-really as the adventure would end, so the PCs get to twiddle their thumbs for a minute, then start over. Are you bored yet? I was. This Chapter has some really cool ideas/encounters, but the way it is presented is just so blaaaaaaah that you quickly lose interest. Drop the Unnecessary & Convoluted Subsystem, and run it as you would any other town and this section of the adventure should be a blast.

Oh, what delight! Chapter Four contains a fourth hag, and another Unnecessary & Convoluted Subsystem. This time you are accumulating Debate Points by disrupting a lecture with deliberately obtuse questions. We are also introduced to Blood Price; "an economic strategy boardgame simulating Geb, its factions and the machinations of the Blood Lords". Paizo just broke its own record for being pointless and boring, so well done, I guess? There is an interesting combat encounter with some clerics of Pharasma, but they can apparently be talked down by a particularly charismatic zombie (DC 28). Does that not violate the tenets of the Pharasman faith to "destroy all [undead] abominations"? I guess someone is losing their class abilities after this. There is no explanation for how this band of holy avengers have been travelling through Geb undetected, or what happens if the PCs convince them to leave peacefully. They just kinda' wander off. The PCs murder witch #4 and the adventure is done!

Conclusion: Starts strong, gets boring. Some great ideas here, generally hindered or watered down by PF2 game mechanics and the obligatory Unnecessary & Convoluted Subsystem/s. PF2's insistence on being grounded in fantasy reality is starting to bog down the Adventure Path line. I would much rather be fighting a dragon than invoicing its hoard, but that's the direction in which this line seems to be spiralling.

3 STARS!!!

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Pants Macabre


That front cover, blurgh. Then you open the book and see this amazing piece of art showing Geb being paraded through the streets of... Geb, I guess? Anyway, love the contrast between colour/energy and context. Great piece of art, does make me wonder why they went with 'Madame Toussards vs Animal Farm' for the cover.

Initial flip through very positive/exciting. Lot of cool art for unique characters & monsters. I am definitely looking forward to reading this one in more detail.

The main bad guy is a psychic vampire? Is that like an Energy Vampire from 'What we do in the Shadows'? I'm going to stop reading there and assume it is exactly the same. You made the main bad guy Count Colin Robinson? Well played, Paizo. Well. Played.

Shadow Ash and the process for making it sounds awesome.

Part One: Liberating a farm from rampaging zombies is fun! Spending the next god-knows-how-long repairing the damage and "evaluating crops" is kinda' not. I'm just relieved Paizo did not implement some manner of arbitrary Farm Repair sub-system. I'm guessing that Boss Cow is going to be a party killer, which might not have been a great idea so early in the book.

The PCs are given the deed to an abandoned manor house, to adopt as their headquarters. How the hell does a severed hand communicate by "squelching air from his gory wrist stump"?! I do like the ostovite redesign, much cooler than how they were presented in Tyrants Grasp. Ooh, just what every new home needs, a "thirty foot long trough of writhing viscera". That's sure to impress the neighbours.

Part Two: The Zon-Kuthonites tell the PCs self-harm is required, but don't begrudge anyone who refuses to do it. You cant have your horrible torture cake and eat it! Someone at Paizo has a real hard on for fancy cuisine, the amount of fluff text describing stuffed pidgeons and buttery pastry is positively self-indulgent. Also, what's the sudden fascination with banks?! It seems like every PF2 AP has an airship or a bank in it, sometimes both. Overall, I feel Part 2 could be skipped in its entirety with little to no impact on the story. The bank and the Bone Shard HQ might work better as side quests unrelated to the main plot.

Part Three: The final part of the book details a dungeon/pub crawl through a hostile brewery. It was kinda' meh. But that's not all, the party are then invited to the governor's mansion for supper and some pointless, inconsequential bureaucracy!

Conclusion: Zombie Feast makes a strong first impression, but that initial excitement does not survive a full read through. Three stars!!!

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Saving the best till last


Initial skim through looks very promising!

Breaking into the offices of Shieldmarshall Loveless is reminiscent of Shoalsgate Station in Thief 2, and infiltrating the Tombend gala is straight up Dishonored. Finally, OoA is hitting the right notes!

The mana storm is FAR better implemented than the one in the previous volume, and will certainly make for a fun combat.

A fight atop the barrel of an enormous gun? Getting strong FF7 vibes and I love it.

The finale unfolds aboard a luxury gearboat. Rather than stage a frontal assault, the party must remain undetected until they have neutralised several devices hidden aboard the vessel. This entire chapter promises a harrowing infiltration, where a single slip-up could trigger an explosive end to the campaign.

After two disappointing books, I was ready to write off OoA, but 'The Smoking Gun' is a fantastic conclusion to an otherwise sloppy campaign. Five stars!!!

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Mana Wasted Opportunity


Opens with a whole load of religious fluff. I could feel myself losing interest right out of the gate. Asynchronous Archives, you say? 13th Ordinal, you say?? Concurrent Heresy, you say??? Get on with the adventure!!!
The time travel aspect is interesting, but by Christendom, you have to wade through some tripe to get there.

Another trap laden workshop. Yay. Such sparkling originality.

Part Two looks promising! Airships and mutants and marauders, oh my! It's hard to conceive how even current-day Paizo could make this boring, but let's see if they managed to pull it off.
Yeah, it's not looking good. You find a pilot, but rather than setting off into the Mana Wastes immediately, she demands that you adopt the role of fantasy travel agents to recruit more passengers for your flight.
Hold on, what? A DC 15 Medcine check to distinguish between a knife wound and a snake bite?! Suuuure.
The battle with marauders amidst a storm, followed by a boss beastie, who you might have to fight atop the envelope is a cool set piece, resulting in the ship crashing down in the desert. Awesome!
Completely unnecessary sidequest is completely unnecessary. On to the titular Cradle of Quartz!!
Nyarlathotep and Yog-Sothoth? Someone should remind the author he's not writing Strange Aeons 2.
I lost interest before reaching the end of the module. The skeleton of a great adventure is hidden here somewhere, beneath the fatty folds of bloated lore. Three stars ***

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More Steampuff than Steampunk


Kinda' dull and without purpose, which is just weird, considering how interesting/novel it could/should have been.
Party escort Mr McGuffin across city, then find out doing so was pointless.
Does a good job of setting up the villains for AP.
Alkenstar is a really cool and unique setting, but the adventure itself felt aggressively bland.
This book alone does not excite me to run this AP.

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Assault on Player Agency


Chapter One

An abrupt start to book four of the AP, the adventure begins in the middle of combat, which is a bit jarring. I had to re-read the conclusion of the previous book to make sure I hadn't missed anything. There follows a lengthy flashback/info-dump, hastily introducing three new major NPCs. There is a sidebar defining the in media res narrative structure, but I'm not sure why it was necessary at all, except maybe to streamline the opening or cull the word count.

The heroes are then presented with a potentially overwhelming enemy force and herded into a short and altogether unnecessary dungeon that I will likely cut entirely should I ever get to run this AP.

The party must then infiltrate a convention of evil alchemists to bring one of the primary villains to justice. This is a really cool idea. The three tests the party must complete to register for the conference are kind of lame, they each boil down to a boring knowledge skill roll. I would probably just give the players the opportunity to jump a group of attendees and steal their identities.

After infiltrating the convention, the party make their way down to a hidden dungeon beneath the revel. Their disguises are no longer of any use and the action switches from social stealth to kick door/kill monster. The dungeon has an interesting vibe, with laboratories set up to study and milk poison from various venomous beasties. There are plenty of opportunities for the party to gather incriminating evidence of unlawful and immoral experimentation and bring the perpetrators to justice. Once the party have found and apprehended their quarry, yet still have to extract him from the dungeon.

Overall, with the exception of the bizarre in media res opening, this is a pretty strong opening chapter.

Chapter Two

Arresting their target is only the start of the agent's troubles. Now they must detain him within the titular hunting lodge for a 72 hour period, while their superiors quibble over jurisdictional issues. It's made clear thar the party are not to interrogate or execute the prisoner, only keep him locked up until someone else decides what to actually do with him. Unfortunately, nobody mentions that the lodge is haunted.…

This chapter contains a description of the hunting lodge and a timeline of events that unfold over the next three days. Defending the lodge and repelling waves of attackers is fun, but the ghostly forces at work complicate the proceedings. I suspect I would drop the supernatural elements in my own game and focus on defending the lodge from enemies determined to rescue the prisoner.

Chapter Three

In the final chapter, the agent's are sent to investigate an abandoned theme park. This kind of feels like something that was left on the cutting room floor after the Extinction Curse AP, but sure, let's go with it for now.… Slightly more alarming is the boxed text warning that the players are about to be railroaded into a brick wall and how the GM should encourage their players to just go with it for the benefit of the story. The warning is warranted, this is perhaps the most blatant repression of player agency I can recall seeing in any AP. I can see this being problematic for some groups. The author also encourages the GM to dissuade players heading straight to the big finale, as 14th level characters will likely have the ability to bypass the majority of this area altogether.

I can't see any reason why this chapter needed such an outlandish setting, it exists as a buffer between the end of chapter two and the big rail-roady finale. This chapter may as well have been set in a big warehouse. By the end of Assault on Hunting Lodge Seven, the adventure is moving in an interesting direction, but is certainly taking a clumsy route to get there.

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It is alright!


Review edited now I've actually received book! It is alright!

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Roll up, Roll up (your characters)


Thus begins the circus/dinosaur adventure path. That is such a cool premise, right there. So awesome!

However, book 1 is just... OK. The first three quarters of the book feel like padding to get you to the Aeon Tower and the main story arc.

Also, your circus is kind of boring. The GM will have to put some work in here to flesh out some memorable NPCs. There's some really cool art for different acts you can showcase, but nothing in the adventure, other than the mechanics for slotting them into the circus management mini game.

Speaking of; the rules for running a circus feel like they will be a total ball ache to implement. This could actually top the caravan rules from Jade Regent for 'most unrewarding waste of your valuable time'. Fortunately, the adventure states they can be completely ignored.

The art and general aesthetic for the adventure is really vibrant and fun. I think sheer novelty value boosts this book from 3 to 4 stars.

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More of a mole hill than a module


The first book in the Age of Ashes AP feels like a speedbump on your way to the portal hopping antics of the next 5 instalments.