Slumbering Tsar 5: The Temple-City of Orcus, Part 2—The Lower City (PFRPG) PDF

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Battered and crushed after a year of war and centuries of abandonment, intrepid explorers find that now all is not restful in the slumbering city. Dark forces gather to man battlements and perhaps even march forth to war once more. The dangers of the Lower City are very much alive and awake as this adventure explores the lowest tenements of the city known as the Grunge and the flooded Dread Marsh.

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Excellent encounter-driven part of the series


This installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar series is 64 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page of SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving 58 pages of content, so let's look at the lower city: Can it stand up to the horrors encountered in the tower of weeping sores?

This being an adventure review, the following contains massive


so please, potential players, stop reading here.

The dread city of Tsar is defined, among other things, by a deadly pall, a kind of evil mist that not only blocks direct sunlight (hello vampires!), but also impedes [good] magic and makes detect evil a rather bad idea. More insidiously, though, the pall corrupts any who dare to rest within, slowly subverting them to Orcus' influence via garish nightmares and the dread power of the demon prince of the undead.

After several rumors to glean in Tsar, the adventure continues to give us a selection of events, as Tsar is a (un-)living environment: The PCs won't have an easy time exploring the city, as e.g. a sniper (an an invisible stalker one at that) with a reach of 3000 (!!) ft. will start trying to pick off the PCs, necessitating some clever thinking/triangulation. Another problem the PCs might face is the return of an advanced storm giant dread ghast with a whopping CR of 17 - Slumbering Tsar is hardcore and epic and while the encounter is epic and rocks, squealers need not apply when the once pure general of the army of light escapes from his prison, hungry for the life-force of men. Oh yeah, once the PCs have a certain artifact, they'll have to deal with a steady onslaught of trolls, troll-kin and mutated varieties in addition to Tsar's dangers.

On the side of things in favor of the PCs, they may complete the quest of Gerrant of Gilboath, paladin-spirit and potential ally as well as mentor for becoming a Justicar (PrC) and source of some more than nice items.

Oh, there's also the encounter that details the return of the cursed undead caravan carrying the last disciple to the temple-city once the PCs have returned the others to their place and the caravan is hardcore. A section detailing return to the camp to stock up as well as random encounters are also provided.

There is a section detailing the Grunge, a part of the city that was heavily damaged during the assault of the army of light, including a fully mapped and disturbing shop of a bone cobbler. Apart from that, we also get a spawning pit of blood golems and a tunnel. Boring? Au contraire, mes amis! The demon-infested tunnel provides access to both the cliff warrens and the missing river (from the harrow lanes) and features e.g. a cool (and somehwat hilarious) Morlock chief that enjoys playing his pipes of pain whom, the PCs will have to stop to enter the higher levels of Tsar, but hobgoblins, ogres, a dinosaur, an ettin-colony and some troglodytes might provide for a challenging delve through the caverns. 1 map featuring some thankfully keyless sample lairs are provided.

The other area detailed is the Great Swamp that once was a regular part of the city and now comes with its very own random encounter tables. The swamp also has 3 bosses - a giant bog turtle, an advanced swamp tyrant and a half-dragon demodand with his own tar golem, guarding one of the disciples and making for an interesting, albeit strange potential ally.

The pdf concludes with 3 monsters (screamer, skeletal swarm, toxic mudman), an entry on the minor artifacts that are the 9 disciples as well as 2 new PrCs, the Justicar and the Disciple of Orcus, both of which, while powerful, are aptly designed. Much to my rejoicing, the Justicar comes with its own spelt-out codex.

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to the elegant printer-friendly two-column standard of the ST-series. The b/w-artworks rock and evoke a classic flair I've come to associate with the series. The maps feature the used-parchment look and offer grids, but once again, I would have loved extra versions without the annoying map-keys in order to print out, cut out and then offer to my players. The pdf is bookmarked, though not as extensively as I would have liked. An overview map of the city is provided for your convenience. This installment of ST focuses HEAVILY on exploration of a ruined city and does so in a cool and evocative manner - Even while reading it, I felt the dread and pervading oppressiveness and danger of Tsar and its ancient evil. Greg A. Vaughan once again created a superbly iconic location and for anyone interested in the whole saga, this is a clear 5-stars recommendation. However, while you might scavenge bits and pieces, I'm not sure whether this installment would be as fitting to be torn apart and resized for other adventures. People looking for that might want to detract a star. But then again: Why are you not getting the whole series? ;)

Endzeitgeist out.

Dark Archive

Reviewed here, at ENworld and necromancer game forums.

What is the range of EL's experienced throughout the book? If I wanted to make them challenging for a party of 20th level adventurers, is it just a matter of adding in some more monsters to up the EL? Thanks!

Dark Archive

Well it is part of the second book which starts at level 11. By the end of the second book the PC's should be 15th level. I really never play level 20 so I honestly wouldn't know for sure what you would need to add to boost the CR high enough to be a challange.

Thanks. Would you say it covers a range of ELs from 11 on up to 17 or 18 throughout the course of the book? I don't mind my party of level 20 (whenever they reach it) wading through easy encounters so long as things toughen up as they get closer to their goal (Orcus). BTW, I would like to use this as the setting for the culmination of my campaign, not the tool to get PCs to level 20. I intend for them to be level 20 before they ever set foot near ST.

As such, I'm anxious to see how it pans out as I would most likely only purchase sections I thought were most interesting and skip the rest. I enjoy the reviews. Thanks for doing them!

Dark Archive

Keep in mind the break down is like this.

Book 1 - Has 3 parts. It starts at level 7 and by the end the PC's should be 11th.

Book 2 - Has 5 parts. It starts at level 11 and by the end the PC's should be 15th.

Book 3 - Has 6 parts. It starts at level 15, the final adventure in the series says the PC's should be 20th or higher by the start of it.

This one is only part 2 of the second book. I haven't seen the rest so I really have no idea what is to come.

In this adventure the lowest CR encounter I seen was a CR2, the highest encounter I seen was a CR17. Most seemed to be in the 8-13CR range, with a few higher and lower than that.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

I have a general question about the sandbox-nature of the series, but this seemed like a good as place as any to answer it.

It seems to me that the party must complete BOOK 1 before going on to BOOK 2. Okay, cool.

WITHIN book 2, there's 5 parts... do these go in order? For example, if I wanted to run this module for my party, and they played "as expected" do I have to snap up all 5 parts to this book before I start (because they could run all over the city), or can I buy the parts iteratively?

The reason I'm asking on this product page is because it seems to me that parts 1-3 (ie book 1) are about "getting TO the city" and then part 4 (beginning of book 2) is about "getting IN the city" and it's only this book that finally starts the "wandering AROUND the city."

What prevents the PCs, after completing part 4, from jumping straight to part 7?

Dark Archive

Ok obviously I don't know about any books beyond the first 5 but this is how the first 5 books are laid out.

Books 1-3 are about the base camp area and the regions around the Slumbering Tsar City. You can hit those encounters in any order you want or even skip them. There are a few event ones that just happen aka the encounter comes looking for you.

Book 4 is about the walls, towers and main gate fortress to get into the city.

Book 5 is about the lowest level of the city.

It is very sand boxy. A party could go straight from the base camp to the city walls and try and get in. They would likely hit a handful of encounters from parts 1-3 reaching the city walls. Then would start hitting part 4 encounters. Odds are they would have to withdraw or if not get killed. Depending on which area 4 encounter they hit trying to get in.

In theory they could fairly early get into the city and skip a lot of parts 1-4 and start to explore the lower city. If they did many of the encounters would be very tough if not out right deadly if they tried to fight them.

There is enough lower CR encounters in part 4 and 5 that the party should get the hint and fall back if they try to take them on too soon. Hopefully they would go explore the area more.

As far as parts 6 and on. I am not sure I know the next 3 are all about higher levels of the city. So once more a party could by pass a lot of part 5 and head up higher into the city. But they couldn't avoid everything.

Hopefully that answers your question, if not let me know in what way I missed and I will try and answer it. Or if you want more details feel free to ask.

Frog God Games

DM has hit it on the head. It's a big sandbox. If they can survive, they can go anywhere they want. So it's up to the individual GMs how much leeway they want to give their PCs in movement up through the city. If you want to give free reign (which is certainly a possibility) you'll want to make sure you have all 5 parts of Temple-City of Orcus to cover all their options before yu begin play of that adventure. So, yes, they can go straight from the gates of the city to the highest terraces if they want to. That said, as the fifth part of Temple-City comes out, you'll see that they can't proceed to the first part of The Hidden Citadel without completing all 5 parts of Temple-City, because the means to access Hidden Citadel are scattered throughout the city.

So in short, if the GM allows it, the PCs can go whereever they want and face the challenges in whatever order they want, but there are some built-in safety valves to keep them from going too far, too fast and getting totally in over their heads--the guardian of the tar pits in The Desolation, the means of accessign the Hidden Citadel in Temple-City of Orcus, and some stuff in The Hidden Citadel itself that causes the actual conclusion to tht sereis to be at the conclusion rather than just at some random spot during their explorations. I don't want to get spoilery, so I won't go into detail onthat here.

Keep in mind, that this series was originally just three BIG adventures, so it is written so it can be used in that way. The series breakdown was created in order to give us a workable sales and distribution model in order to actually get this thing into print. The big fat book at the end of it all is going to be AWESOME!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

That somewhat answered my question, but I guess without seeing the later books you can't fully answer it. Let me try phrasing a different way anyways.

I'm not asking about what a party could do that was determined to sequence-break. I'm asking about what the book suggests as a natural sequence of events.

The first three books seem to be generally "walk progressively closer to the city" therefore a party will probably do 1 before 2 before 3 because the books are increasingly far away from their starting location. And then book 4 really seems the most mandatory of all of them: it's breaching the city walls, which is a must for this module.

However, once you're inside, do you have any particular reason to go to one part of the city versus another? It seems books 5-8 are just "different districts of the city." Do the PCs have a reason to visit "district 5" first or could the PCs just as easily on a whim decide to "turn left at the shrine" and end up in "district 7"?

I get that there's a vertical component to the various districts (each mounting higher) but if the PCs said "our goal is up, so let's not muck around in the swamp" is there any compelling plot reason or incentive for them to go to the lower districts at all? (other than "leveling" in the generic sense)

Again, let's say I'm buying the books in order as my players go through them, so I ask myself "once the PCs beat book 4, do I then have to buy books 5-8 right away, or can I just buy book 5"?

Thanks so much for your explanations!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

Greg is a ninja, and answered while I was typing. Okay, that clears everything up! Thanks!

Frog God Games

They could do the districts of the city in any order, but Event 1 and the conclusion of ST8 will eventually compel them to check out all the districts at some time or other for reasons other than simply XP gathering (though XP gathering is certainyl and intended component of it). So ultimately you would need all of the parts of Temple-City to proceed to The Hidden Citadel (if you intend to run it as written), but whether you have them all at once or in any particualr order will really depend on what you do with your game. If you inted to have them start from the top, then ST8 would be the first one you needed, etc. The terraces are intended to be a minor nuisance at best to encourage PCs to check out the lower portions first where things maybe aren'tquite as hard, but there's no reason they have to do it this way and you could certainly do it differently if you wanted. The terraces provide a logical order in which to proceed but certainly not the only order that it cna be successfully done.

Frog God Games

D'oh, I thought that was directed at my answer. Sorry for over-answering after that. :-)

Thanks, Dark Mistress, that helped. I plan to cherry pick which parts I purchase as my PCs will be level 20 when they arrive at the city and I don't want to make them go through every part of the whole thing. Once I see how it all looks I can pick up those parts that look most interesting (and obviously have to rearrange some things to allow access to areas that would otherwise be blocked off).

Having an idea of what the CRs of encounters within each section is helpful. Thanks for providing them!

Dark Archive

You're welcome, but keep in mind this is very sandboxy. While many of the encounters are for the named level ranges there is some above and below in each book.

Book 1, part 1 - Base camp

Book 1, part 2 - Highest Encounter CR 13

Book 1, part 3 - highest encounter CR 15

Book 2, part 1 - highest encounter CR 18

Book 2, part 2 - highest encounter CR 17

So as you could see there is several encounters that would take very little work to be challenging for higher level PC's. Just give a slight boost or combine two encounters etc and I think you could make a lot of it work for a higher level group.

On page 29 in "The Grunge" there is a sentence about a trapped creature says "Otherwise he does not emerge until Event 4 described in chapter 1." Which book is the event in? This does not match up with earlier book's chapter 1 so I assume it is a book yet to come?

Frog God Games

Russell Akred wrote:
On page 29 in "The Grunge" there is a sentence about a trapped creature says "Otherwise he does not emerge until Event 4 described in chapter 1." Which book is the event in? This does not match up with earlier book's chapter 1 so I assume it is a book yet to come?

That's a typo; it should say Chapter 3. The Overview of Tsar was originally chapter 1 of Temple-City of Orcus, but in the juggling to divide it up into the 14 releases, I did some swapping with the Black Gates and Tower of Weeping Sores in ST4 and had to renumber the chapters. I apparently missed that reference. Unless it specifically lists another book (i.e. The Desolation of The Hidden Citadel), then all citations in Temple-City will refer to something within Temple-City. If anyone sees any other typos like that, let me know so we can get them fixed. Thanks.

Sorry about the confusion.

Reviewed here, on RPGaggression and sent to GMS magazine. Cheers!

Excellent review End! :)

Thank you very much, Dawn!

Dark Archive

Nice review End.

Thank you, D_M!

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