Pathfinder Module: Cult of the Ebon Destroyers (PFRPG)

3.80/5 (based on 16 ratings)
Pathfinder Module: Cult of the Ebon Destroyers (PFRPG)
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An urban, wilderness, and dungeon adventure for 8th-level characters

A malignant cult has taken root in the mystical and magical realm of Jalmeray. Known and feared throughout distant Vudra, the cult of Dhalavei has expertly destroyed organizations and societies from within for millennia. Now a new sect of the sinister Cult of the Ebon Destroyers has its sights set on Thakur Kharswan of Jalmeray, and the magistrates and bureaucrats behind the throne must hunt down and eliminate the cult before the unthinkable happens. If only there were someone they could trust to behead Dhalavei's cult before the assassins do the same to their beloved ruler…

Cult of the Ebon Destroyers is an adventure for 8th-level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG. In addition to the adventure, this volume also features a brand-new monster and a gazetteer of the city of Niswan, capital of the Isle of Jalmeray.

Written by Matthew Goodall, the winner of Paizo Publishing's RPG Superstar contest, which allows unpublished authors to compete before a panel of celebrity game designers and legions of their peers for the chance to write a Pathfinder Module.

Pathfinder Modules are 32-page, high-quality, full-color, adventures using the Open Game License to work with both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set. This Pathfinder Module includes new monsters, treasure, and a fully detailed bonus location that can be used as part of the adventure or in any other game!

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-317-0

Cult of the Ebon Destroyers is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional rules for running this module are a free download (240 KB zip/PDF).

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Adventure Subscription.

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Average product rating:

3.80/5 (based on 16 ratings)

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Fun, but very difficult.

4/5

My group had fun with this overall, but it's got a few problems, largely due to being much more difficult than your average 8th-level module. I had a party of four fairly skilled players, and there were two deaths and several very close calls over the course of the adventure -- I could have easily caused a few more player deaths if I had the enemies finish off unconscious players rather than pulling their punches and moving to a new target after somebody went down.

It starts off in an exotic local with lots of interesting flavor, and the roleplaying aspects of it are pretty fun. There's some mystery, some investigation, and some interesting cultural experiences. The investigation is probably the best part of the module, and will take up about the first 1/3 to 1/2 of it. There are some fun NPCs, and at 8th level the party probably hasn't dealt with shapeshifting outsiders before.

Then the combat encounters start, and almost every single encounter in this module has a CR that's above the party's level. Some of them are significantly above the party's level, and near the end the party may have to fight several of them in a row. There is relatively little opportunity for roleplaying for the rest of the module. There are also a few encounters where the enemies have tactics that are decidedly not optimal, but you really need to run them as written, because if you have the enemies use a bit of strategy, they'll destroy the players -- I have no doubt that there would have been a total party wipe if the enemies had gone all out rather than behaving as written.

Overall, I liked it, but you'll want to tone it down if your party doesn't like being brought to the brink of death in every fight.


A Worthy Challenge

4/5

The Good:
-Setting: The setting is a good break from the standard Pathfinder module: the obvious being in that it doesn't take place in one of the typical Inner Sea countries.

However, this divergence is obvious in minor ways as well. For one, I couldn't find a single Lovecraft reference, and while the model evoked feelings of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it was clearly designed with the intent of having each encounter be different from the standard fare.

This alone was promising, and one of my favorite parts running (and playing through) the adventure.

-Challenge: There seems to be a lot of complaint about the level of difficulty in the module. However, my party found Cult of the Ebon Destroyers to be perfect. It's a solid bit harder than your typical adventure, I won't deny that. But it isn't the party destroyer people are saying it is provided your party acts with a reasonable degree of tactical knowledge.

The Bad:
-At times, some of the enemy tactics don't really make sense, particularly when its a group of "mook" enemies opposed to the BBEGs, in that they have reason to work together but choose to fight one wave at a time. This is easily rectified by sending in larger groups and reducing the total number of foes in a locale.

-At times, the players were left with only one avenue to reach the next plot point. As a GM, I worked with them to basically use reasonable progression to get to the next stage, although I would have preferred fewer individual hunts for information in favor of a more connected series of events.

-Some enemies can die before their slated final encounter, without a real clear analogue on who should replace them.

-As a GM I'm getting really frustrated with the "villagers are helpful/no they're actually out to kill you" trope that seems prevalent in the modules and adventure paths of late. While this isn't this modules especial fault, I would've liked to see a village genuinely try and aid the PCs...but later be infiltrated by the cult.

In spite of the few plot/tactical faults herein, the combination of challenging, varied encounters, and a refreshing setting lead me to give Cult of the Ebon Destroyers a 4/5.


better than some critiques, but weak

3/5

Overall, I am not a overt fan of "pre-brewed" stand-alone-adventures, but picked this one up because of its "near Vudran" setting.
Used it as a side-trek after a teleportation accident in the running campaign, with a five player group.

Pros :
- Setting : spicy and nicely different from your usual run-of-the-mill pseudo-european fantasy setting. A taste of something "different". Actually the strongest point of the adventure.

- Challenging : the adventure has some pretty decent and surprising fights, utilising legends and traditions of the proto-indian background. Unfortunately these are not really those serving as keypoints of the plot, but "random" interactions. The key fights suffer from a massive common flaw
Motivation and reasons for many NPC decision is foggy and at times rather silly. This problem will me missed out on by the players, though

- "Sandbox" style murder/crime-investigation, which could have used some more fleshing out, but is fun to see at all. Interestingly capable villain and agents for this part.

Average :
Overall, the product seems underdeveloped and sparse, mostly due to the constraint of 32 pages, much of which then gets eaten up by statblocks. Very linear design after the initial investigation.

Cons:
-

Spoiler:
The NPCs, especially the BBEGs are throughout overly reliant on single-use items and/or buffing up prior to their fights. Once a group grows wise to this design foible of the author, judicious "Dispel Magic" absolutely rules the day, especially in all final encounters. Terrible design by Mr. Goodall : One NPCs has - I kid you not 16 buffs on him, which cost us/me about 15 minutes of game time to recalculate his stats without those after he had been struck by twin Dispel Magics. I don't see how a crude strategy monoculture like this slipped by quality control.
Nevermind the weak "boosted mooks" with a single use of a potion on him, drunk at the first sign, which is just cheapskating design.
An absolutely underwhelming execution by the author.

- The internal artwork is... the less said about it, the better ? My group mostly hated it, and thought it less-than helpful, if not distracting and counter-productive for immersion in the dark-cult athmosphere. "Teenage-y circus freaks style" was among the more positive verdicts uttered. The cover (shown after adventure ) was felt to be more appealing and conductive.

- Plot does not make all that much sense, or rather seems forced and "pulpish". This make player involvement hard, and may require redesign or rewrite to be more engrossing. But why then buy an "pre-brewed" adventure at all ?

- Power level of the encounters varies from "extremely hard" (without Dispel Magic) to "utterly underwhelming" (with Dispel Magic).

Spoiler:
Taking down three passively waiting martial arts masters in their secret academy is hardly original IMHO. To quote a player "...and Bruce Lee is the next master, right ?"

Overall :
Basically decent adventure off the beaten track, but shoddy design/execution. Not the strongest contender in Paizo's offering, and a massive step down from "Kingslayers" and "Felnight Queen"

To be frank, this probably looked far stronger in concept than the actual product turned out


Cult of the Fun Destroyers

2/5

Pros:

1) Good murder mystery and investigation
2) Opportunity to encounter a rarely used iconic creature
3) Includes urban, jungle, and dungeon type settings

Cons:

1) Unbalanced encounters
2) Poorly designed encounter layouts
3) Horrible final encounter

Overall it feels just like what Doug said, an arms race. A party of 4 or 5 level 8's with optimized characters who like to fight for their lives with every encounter might really enjoy this module.

Link to full review.


The Arms Race Continues

2/5

This adventure gets high marks for difficulty and opponent design. Matt Goodall knew what he was doing when he built the Ebon Destroyers. He did the job too well, in fact, making the adventure into a tedious lesson of pain and frustration for the players. The arms race between the power-gamers and the adventure authors continues, sucking all the fun out of the game for the players who choose not to optimize. There were several encounters where I felt like a spectator rather than a player.

The setting was the best part about this scenario. The author did his homework on Jalmeray and brought the nation to life with his selection of NPCs and opponents. The adventure covers urban, wilderness and dungeon settings and offers every character class the chance to shine. The plot is simple and after some investigation it goes straight to the bloodletting.

This is not an adventure for the casual player. It is long, it is deadly, and it is unforgiving. Played straight through it should take 10-12 hours to complete. It is written for 8th level PCs but would challenge 9th & 10th level PCs as well. If you play it with 8th level PCs then make sure there are six of you. The adventure is designed to drain resources so make sure that each party member has the means to independently fly, climb and then get out fast if things go south.


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Grand Lodge

Kyle Baird wrote:

@Thod - Only one character used the paste. They spread out a bit in the forest, and slept in separate tents in the thick of the jungle. The person who took last watch didn't actually want to take watch and chose to sleep. Tracking down the scent to particular tent, somewhat away from the rest of the party and the campfire, would you cast entangle? I didn't CdG of course, and I actually turned my attention to the rest of the party after "waking" DougDoug's character up.

Kyle

Thanks for your answer. I'm in shock !!!

An 8th level adventure. You go through a jungle in a hostile environment - and the group spreads out and doesn't even have a watch?

I would expect such behaviour from a beginner party - but even my Fools Errant group would act in a more survivable way. You don't need a stealth 28 - a stealth 2 is probably sufficient to surprise a sleeping character on his own.

I don't think it can be blamed on the designer if the group acts like that. But if this happens in my game it would sour the whole experience.

I hope I'm not coming over too strong here - but in a situation like this the characters ask - kill me, kill me. I hate as GM to be placed in such a situation where the most appropriate answer is - kill the PC.

Please tell me at least they had alarm spells up or anything else to protect them?

Thod


Spoiler:
ended with trip to temple. Again a well placed spell(deep slumber) took out tiger guy. skipped village and ghost due to time.

3rd session started at temple. After foyer fight the group went to the shrine, which was the best fight ever. Had a player made for disarming. He got a 36 to disarm 6-arms, and the look on his face when I said nope was priceless.Just got better when she then stepped up and said "i'll show you how it's done' and took his adamantine bill. Than the archer shoots an arrow and swat. He really hated that every one had deflection.


Thod wrote:

Please tell me at least they had alarm spells up or anything else to protect them?

Thod

Nope. To be fair they weren't spread "way" out, but even 10-15 in thick jungle is a lot. The person on watch had a +24 perception, but like I said, chose not to stay awake.

This was just after a little inter-party conflict. The paladin didn't react to kindly to the oracle of bones animating the rakshasa. We had a little "hand-waved" PvP, and the group was fractured until the oracle of bones died and her "sister" replaced her.

Grand Lodge

Kyle Baird wrote:
Thod wrote:

Please tell me at least they had alarm spells up or anything else to protect them?

Thod

Nope. To be fair they weren't spread "way" out, but even 10-15 in thick jungle is a lot. The person on watch had a +24 perception, but like I said, chose not to stay awake.

This was just after a little inter-party conflict. The paladin didn't react to kindly to the oracle of bones animating the rakshasa. We had a little "hand-waved" PvP, and the group was fractured until the oracle of bones died and her "sister" replaced her.

Kyle

Thanks for the information. The module isn't good for a disfunctional group that doesn't work together. In this circumstances I do understand a low rating as players and GM wouldn't have as much fun as they should.

I hardly dare to ask - did you do this for your fourth star?

Congratulation by the way.

Thod


Arnwyn wrote:
I absolutely believe that PFS should be entirely ignored when designing Pathfinder Modules.

Even as a PFS player, I agree. Forcing PFS design constraints on the modules would be a poor choice.

Liberty's Edge

Spoiler:

Shadowdancer not to tough. 10' range on shurkins sucked. They than went through the tunnel and came in the back way for the oracle. The ranger than just charged,and with human favorite, and think a crit, she didnt last too long.

Than unto the fight I thought would kill them. Note that with all his spells, it can be a huge hassle to do this encounter. Didnt know till halfway through that displacement and blur both work. It took them awhile to damage him because the images worked. Bad side is that even with +17 on will save I failed against Confusion and so rolled randomly to determine who he would attack when he did. This hurt because kept picking the high AC guy, where if chose would have picked the others off first. Eventaully they slowly beat him down.
I did change one small part, inwhich gave him blink instead of invis, for the contingousy. couse didnt work since his last action was to hit himself, thus knocking himself out.

Over all opinion is that it is too long for 3 sessions of PFS. The sandbox investigation can take up alot of time, and a more experinced Gm will probably make the Temple BBEG's go longer. I liked it alot and had hoped they had fought the wizard first, so had more time than tying to get done for the next use of table.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
hogarth wrote:
As far as I can tell, none of Kyle's criticisms were PFS-specific. Of course, there's one notable difference -- under PFS rules he's not supposed to rewrite the module substantially. But personally, I think saying that a module is playable after substantial revision is a backhanded compliment at best and a stinging rebuke at worst.

Note, I think Kyle offered a detailed criticism, which is a good thing. My concern, as I mentioned is if the very nature of a PFS play experience was responsible(not at all/partly/wholly) for the issues presented, and if so, can we identify those. If the issues were not related to PFS play experience, cool, but as I mentioned, it is interesting that two major PFS players offered stinging criticisms. Perhaps that is just a coincidence.

Note x2, I think PFS is great, and I respect the hell out of the effort that Doug and Kyle put into PFS. This is just me making an observation with an interest in simply spurring constructive discussion.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kyle Baird wrote:

This is why it's important for everyone to publish detailed reviews. Everyone's experience will average out and help generate a better picture regarding the quality of the product.

Everyone also needs to keep in mind that someone who has a negative experience is far more likely to write a review than someone who has an average to positive experience. That's just another reason to be as detailed as possible.

Agreed, and agreed. I should've mentioned that your review was thoughtful and thorough, and much appreciated. I suppose I am looking at my own PFS experience, and having noticed, as with most Living Campaigns, that the play experience is different than that of home play.

Anyway, it is all for the best.

Cheers!


Arnwyn wrote:
Elorebaen wrote:
I would much rather see designers stick with the paradign of normal play then try to cater to a PFS play experience, which, if what I have laid is correct, would make me think that everything created for normal play is not immediately apprpriate for PFS play. Lastly, I think it would be important to know from reviews what sort play experience and party make up.

I entirely agree with this.

The idea that the Pathfinder Modules (not the PFS scenarios) are/could be designed around PFS is very disturbing to me.

I absolutely believe that PFS should be entirely ignored when designing Pathfinder Modules.

+1

GRU

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Just so folks know... the modules are not designed around the Pathfinder Society at all. My assumption for folks who play them for PFS credit is that they're not trying to race through them in 4 hours, either, since some of the modules are pretty complex.


Kyle Baird wrote:
Thod wrote:

Please tell me at least they had alarm spells up or anything else to protect them?

Thod

Nope. To be fair they weren't spread "way" out, but even 10-15 in thick jungle is a lot. The person on watch had a +24 perception, but like I said, chose not to stay awake.

This was just after a little inter-party conflict. The paladin didn't react to kindly to the oracle of bones animating the rakshasa. We had a little "hand-waved" PvP, and the group was fractured until the oracle of bones died and her "sister" replaced her.

you didnt mention this "inner-party-conflict" in your review. Was it the reason the module went not as well as it should? If yes, then maybe you should be fair and correct your low rating or mention your team problem in the review.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

I've edited a few posts by moving the contents within spoiler tags. Remember that this is a product discussion page and may be read by people planning on playing the adventure. For detailed discussion of individual encounters, please hide spoilers or take the discussion to the more GM-friendly Pathfinder Modules subforum.

Thanks!


Enpeze wrote:
you didnt mention this "inner-party-conflict" in your review. Was it the reason the module went not as well as it should? If yes, then maybe you should be fair and correct your low rating or mention your team problem in the review.

My rating of this scenario has very little to do with how the party I ran it for faired. My review is based of the design of the story, encounters, investigation, and quality of the writing.


Kyle Baird wrote:
My rating of this scenario has very little to do with how the party I ran it for faired. My review is based of the design of the story, encounters, investigation, and quality of the writing.

Actually, the group composition and playing style can make this adventure terribly easy, if the players find the "antidote" to the common massive problem of the final fights.

Spoiler:

which is "Dispelling" each and everyone who looked like a decently dangerous BBEG. Which the group I ran it for did : Wizard 9th, Oracle (of Lore) 8th, Barbarian 8th, Rogue 8th, Sorcerer ( Boreal) 8th. Experienced players, and they carry a bunch of Pearls of Power for extra spells/slots

I thoroughly agree with your description/evaluation of the silk factory's architecture.

The group liked the Weretiger encounter very much - probably because the tiger-in-the-night theme is so idiosyncratic of India for us - and considered it a highlight of the entire trip (they grew suspicious of the lycanthrope early, and layed out an ambush for him^^).

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010

Thanks for the review Vikingson, glad your group liked parts of the adventure.

I'm curious about your 'antidote' for the final fights.

Spoiler:
Dispel magic removes one spell so it is hardly a silver bullet for these encounters. If your PCs were repeatedly using it, that's cool, it is a viable tactic. If you were using the 3.5 version of dispel magic which could remove more than one spell, then I can see why you might have had problems. Cult of the Ebon Destroyers was written for PFRPG.

Use of consumables.

Spoiler:
I personally also dislike having monsters and NPCs using all their consumables, just because they 'know' that they are about to fight the PCs. I felt that I had minimised this in the adventure. As a monk, drinking a 50 gp (or 25 gp to make) potion with a 1 hour duration makes sense if you suspect there is trouble coming. It's a better bet than a cure light wounds potion after the fact. Also one of the leaders of the cult is a wizard with Brew Potion as a feat so getting new potions shouldn't be a problem.
Apart from the mage armor potions for the monks, there is extremely little consumable use. The only other one I could find was Deepti drinking a potion of bear's endurance, which can also be manufactured by the wizard. The rest of the opponent's buffs come from spells.

Dark Archive Vendor - Fantasiapelit Tampere

James Jacobs wrote:
Just so folks know... the modules are not designed around the Pathfinder Society at all. My assumption for folks who play them for PFS credit is that they're not trying to race through them in 4 hours, either, since some of the modules are pretty complex.

No kidding. We runned the Crypt of Everflame in 8 hours. on the other hand, pc:s wanted to play couple of days before the event's started. Mask of the Living god was six hours, and City of Golden Deat took two 5-hour gaming sessions. But I still like them more than Society scenarios. Next up is From Shore to Sea, Realm of the Fellnight Queen, Cult of Ebon Destroyers, the Harrowing and Curse of the RIven sky. I love it.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

I just posted a five-star review of this module. Check it out over on the product page. Well done, Mr. Goodall, we had a great time playing this adventure!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010

Thanks Mike, glad you and your group enjoyed it and thank you for the nicely detailed report.
Just some thoughts about things you mentioned:

Earrings:
The earrings are in different districts but the PCs should realise that the spell's range won't cover the entire city. Locate object does have a duration, so they could run around the city with it on or cast the spell multiple times. I tend to show the players the city map at this point and let them figure out how they want to do it.

Were tiger:
Paladins are always going to make it hard on the disguised extremely evil weretiger. A pity he couldn't get away and come back and stalk them at night.

The village:
It can either be a roleplaying encounter, or a combat encounter (usually both). It's also meant to be an easy encounter; the hardest bit should be the moral decision of what the PCs do with any captured cultists.

The final boss:
Poor Zaafira is the weakest of the masters, and a caster without her buffs becomes a lot less of a threat. I designed her as the least powerful so that she fell somewhere between a decent one-on-one fight (if the PCs do decide to duel) and still be a small threat to the whole party. Pretty generous to give a surprise round when both parties are fully aware of each other, but a full attack of sneak attacks is always going to hurt. :-)

I do appreciate your thoughts on the pace and components of the adventure. The end may have a little too much combat, dungeon crawls do tend to be that way. I'm also happy to hear that your PCs want to hunt down other cells of Ebon Destroyer cultists. I hoped to make the cult villainous enough that the PCs really want to put them down.

Matt Goodall

Silver Crusade

Whew last message was almost 4 years ago but let's see what I can come up with.

I am running this at a Con in a couple of weekends. Should I expect a full 12-hour run time? Is this closer in execution to The Harrowing or closer to City of Golden Death?

If it is closer to 12 hours what can I expect to spend most of my time on?

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