James Case is a madman. This book is the shining example of what high-level play should look like. Everything is written to be strikingly cinematic, and deftly carries the weight of a truly epic conclusion to a long journey of adventuring.
I ran this book of the adventure path several months ago, but it’s left a sour taste in my mouth ever since and I need to articulate why. Chapter 1 has the PCs traveling to a city ruled by an evil child god, and the PCs must convince his advisors to change his mind about killing all outsiders to the city. There are several NPCs that need to be influenced, and all have detailed backstories. However, very little guidance is given as to their personalities, and in practice I found roleplaying them to be exceedingly difficult. As written, influencing each NPC requires several meetings with them, and it’s hard to find enough topics of conversation to fill those meetings. There’s also no guidance as to how each NPC slowly changes their mind over time, and how to convey that. If you have a group that loves political intrigue, they’re likely going to want to roleplay out each interaction with the NPCs, and it is a headache to try and do that.
Chapter 2 is great. It’s a quick little dungeon crawl with a plot point that alters the game world in a significant and satisfying way. I loved it!
The final chapter is another disappointment. The PCs go and find this hidden city that no one has ever been to and told the tale, but the excitement quickly wears off as you realize that once you get to the city, there’s… nothing to do there. And then you have to defend the city against all the people you just spent all of chapter 1 trying to befriend. But don’t worry, there’s a cheap memory-erasing plot device so none of them will remember it. The book ends with the PCs being told, “hey, is that guy who founded your school still on Mars? Wait, you didn’t know that?” which is the only bit of set-up you get for book 5.
This book has such interesting concepts that fall so far flat in actual play. I had a similar experience with Despair on Danger Island, and while I love Luis Loza’s writing when it comes to his incredible worldbuilding, I want him to improve upon providing ways for players to interact with those worlds.