Slumbering Tsar 7: The Temple-City of Orcus, Part 4—The Crooked Tower (PFRPG) PDF

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Rising like a broken finger above a city of the dead, the Crooked Tower has stood longer than the city itself. And the city’s destruction and abandonment proved no obstacle to the plans of the tower’s master. With a reach that stretches far across the Desolation, the master of the tower—and perhaps master of the city—lurks on high and pulls the strings of his many puppets. Only the most foolhardy would dare brave the heights of the Crooked Tower.

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The best stand-alone part of the series - deadly vampire tower

5/5

This installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar series is 76 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC and 1 page of SRD, leaving 73 pages of content, so let's take a good look at this rather big installment detailing the dread crooked tower!

This being an adventure review, the following contains massive

SPOILERS

so please, potential players, stop reading.

This installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar saga sees the PCs take on the tower of Belishan the legendary blood mage and his cunning actually kicks off by providing a sufficiently cunning bluff - the stables feature a nightmare disguised as a paladin's mount, hopefully prompting the PCs into some rather rash and potentially deadly decisions. It's kind of nice that the Pcs get a scribbled note in the saddle-bags as a handout. The 10 levels of the tower are depicted over 7 pages of maps and a map of the city is also provided for your convenience, though it does not feature prominently in this installment. It should be noted that apart from a false throne room including a rather deadly trap/ambush, e.g. the groundskeeper makes for a quite disturbing enemy: Ever fought a natural wererat yellow-musk-creeper symbiote rogue? Thought so! And yes, a huge and deadly advanced creeper is also on the list of things the PCs will have to kill to end the dreadful threat the inhabitants of this tower pose. Even worse, though, is that among the inhabitants of the tower, an unique entity of incorporeal hate called "Malice" still lurks and guards the bloodmage's most secure coffin. Coffin? Yup, as you might expect, the PCs are up against a rather terrible vampire of the worst caliber. It is also here the PCs can obtain some of Belishan's spells (some of which have been converted from 3.5's legendary relics and rituals - books) as well as another hand-out.

Among other obstacles, the Pcs will also have to contend with a visiting champion of Hel and might find a gallery of magical portraits, which should prove challenging, as the traps will drain the PCs resources. Traps? Oh yeah, don't forget to bring your rogue on this merry delve into the tower - the bloodmage has LITTERED his lair with traps, traps and even more traps that range from strategically placed symbols (that might plunge PCs to a 20d6 fall) to scything blades, poisons and false rung ladders. The treasury, though, containing a sepia snake sigil'd rogue/assassin/potential replacement character/helpful NPC makes up for this dangers in its rather generous and detailed treasures.

While exploring the deadly tower, the PCs will have to deal with Belishan's twisted court while not falling prey to the deceptions and false clues the vampire has spread throughout his tower, e.g. trying to bluff the PCs into releasing and fighting a dreadful petrified horror (another new creature that gets its own entry in the appendices, including artwork). Thankfully, Belishan is also not stupid in his final confrontation, bringing powerful allies with him into the fray and making for a potentially extremely deadly showdown that might be prolonged though several rooms. The PCs may also save a half-elf slave-girl and do some good, though truly getting the poor maiden to safety proves to be more difficult than anticipated, possibly resulting in a rather heart-wrenching scene. After concluding this adventures, the PCs have hopefully dealt with the vampire and found the two disciples hidden in his tower, leading off to the final installment of the Temple-City of Orcus.

The pdf closes by providing 2.5 pages of spell conversions from relics and rituals, 7 new monsters (all with their own, kick-ass b/w-artwork), new magic items (also with their own beautiful kick-ass artworks and also offer an artifact-level chess-game) and the hand-outs and maps.

Conclusion:
Once again, the installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar saga is practically devoid of editing or formatting glitches - at least I didn't notice any. The book is also EXTENSIVELY bookmarked, providing for a resource that is very easy to navigate and use. More importantly, the vampire mage's tower offers a challenging crawl against a very well prepared villain that deserves the moniker both in terms of deviousness as well as combat prowess. Layout adheres to the established two-column b/w-standard established in FGG-products and the plethora of high-quality b/w-artworks further serves to enhance the creepy atmosphere of the crooked tower. My only true gripe is that we don't get player-friendly, key-less maps of the tower, but oh well: Taking the spell-conversions, the amount of content, the hand-outs, the cool creatures and the superb atmosphere into account, I can easily look over this minor gripe. In contrast to other ST-installments, this tower, though, is practically ready-made to drop into just about any setting, making it VERY easy to insert into any remote stretch of landscape and using it on your own. If you're on the fence about Tsar and want to check out the quality of the writing of the series or just look for a vampire's hold that is on par with e.g. "Skeletons of Scarwall" and features a more organic, intelligently planning villain, this tower is practically a must for you. Do yourself and any cocky players you might have a favor and let them run the gauntlet that is the crooked tower. Subsequently, my final verdict practically has to be a full 5 stars with the Endzeitgeist seal of approval - highly recommended for just about anyone who enjoys a challenging crawl and dark atmosphere.

Endzeitgeist out.



When will the next issue be out?

Frog God Games

Prelimary layout is done and proofed, and the final art came in late this last week. So I'd guess any day now, though I haven't heard a hard date yet.


Thanks, with all the worries I've read about this not being completed during 3.5. I sometimes get antsy and concerned about, what is a very good adventure, not finishing it's publication.


I had a hard time visualizing the Crooked Tower. The drawing at the beginning of the book didn't help so I went into sketchup and did it after laying out the castle walls and the tiers within the walls.

Crooked Tower Sketch Up:


Cool Sketch Up of the tower, Russel!

Quite a fall down that cliff...:)

Dark Archive

Reviewed and hopefully will have part 8 done later today.


Nice Review DM!

I was rather partial to the Crooked Tower as well. It's potential to be portable to a different setting is high, IMO.

Dark Archive

Dark Sasha wrote:

Nice Review DM!

I was rather partial to the Crooked Tower as well. It's potential to be portable to a different setting is high, IMO.

So then where's your review? :)


If a party of high-level PC's were intent on reaching Orcus and were making haste across/through the city, would they be able to easily skip this tower or is it required (for whatever reason) to gain access to the next part of the city? Apologies if the question doesn't make sense. I don't have the mental image of how the city is laid out in my head just yet. Thanks!


Nice review, D_M!

Dark Archive

Dosgamer wrote:
If a party of high-level PC's were intent on reaching Orcus and were making haste across/through the city, would they be able to easily skip this tower or is it required (for whatever reason) to gain access to the next part of the city? Apologies if the question doesn't make sense. I don't have the mental image of how the city is laid out in my head just yet. Thanks!

No this part and for that matter much of parts 1-6 can be skipped by a party that wants to head straight in. Of course that would be folly to do that. Since each part gets harder and assumes that the PC's have at least done part of the previous part for XP and treasure. But you the GM can run things how you want. The whole series is very sandboxy and the PC's could hit things in almost any order, there are some parts they can't skip but not a lot. Hopefully that answers your question.

Dark Archive

Endzeitgeist wrote:
Nice review, D_M!

Thanks... so where's your review? :)


Dark_Mistress wrote:
No this part and for that matter much of parts 1-6 can be skipped by a party that wants to head straight in. Of course that would be folly to do that. Since each part gets harder and assumes that the PC's have at least done part of the previous part for XP and treasure. But you the GM can run things how you want. The whole series is very sandboxy and the PC's could hit things in almost any order, there are some parts they can't skip but not a lot. Hopefully that answers your question.

Thanks, D_M!

My PC's would be high level before getting to this stage (18+) of my campaign, which is why it's helpful to me to understand which pieces I may want to cherry pick to use.

Dark Archive

Dosgamer wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
No this part and for that matter much of parts 1-6 can be skipped by a party that wants to head straight in. Of course that would be folly to do that. Since each part gets harder and assumes that the PC's have at least done part of the previous part for XP and treasure. But you the GM can run things how you want. The whole series is very sandboxy and the PC's could hit things in almost any order, there are some parts they can't skip but not a lot. Hopefully that answers your question.

Thanks, D_M!

My PC's would be high level before getting to this stage (18+) of my campaign, which is why it's helpful to me to understand which pieces I may want to cherry pick to use.

Not a problem, part 8 aka the next part leads up to the entrance of the Temple of Orcus. After that I am not sure how much can be missed. I don't have part 9 or on yet, but my guess is the rest of it will be a high level dungeon starting with part 9. Now you could have your players skip all the way to part 9 or only hit a few key encounters in the first 8 parts since there is a lot of neat stuff before then. The only thing is to get into the temple the PC's need 9 icons and they are scattered around in the city in parts 4-8. You could of course just set it up so the PC's already have them or don't need them to get in. Just a FYI so you know.


Dark_Mistress wrote:
Dosgamer wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
No this part and for that matter much of parts 1-6 can be skipped by a party that wants to head straight in. Of course that would be folly to do that. Since each part gets harder and assumes that the PC's have at least done part of the previous part for XP and treasure. But you the GM can run things how you want. The whole series is very sandboxy and the PC's could hit things in almost any order, there are some parts they can't skip but not a lot. Hopefully that answers your question.

Thanks, D_M!

My PC's would be high level before getting to this stage (18+) of my campaign, which is why it's helpful to me to understand which pieces I may want to cherry pick to use.
Not a problem, part 8 aka the next part leads up to the entrance of the Temple of Orcus. After that I am not sure how much can be missed. I don't have part 9 or on yet, but my guess is the rest of it will be a high level dungeon starting with part 9. Now you could have your players skip all the way to part 9 or only hit a few key encounters in the first 8 parts since there is a lot of neat stuff before then. The only thing is to get into the temple the PC's need 9 icons and they are scattered around in the city in parts 4-8. You could of course just set it up so the PC's already have them or don't need them to get in. Just a FYI so you know.

No one has part 9 yet, well, except for Greg.(Unless I am wrong and he got crazy busy these last couple of days.)

He was going to complete the work on it once the ToHC was completed. Which it is, except for the final check. I imagine we'll be seeing him pop on to comment in a week or so.

As for the final part of this campaign series, it was my understanding that certain events/circumstances must take place before the final part can be entered. But if you want to hop straight to that, you can always handwave that part. The old "other adventuring parties opened up the doorway and died before they could finish the task" trope is a time tested GM trick.


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


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

Awesome! Thank you for taking the time to do these reviews. :D

Dark Archive

Nice review End.


You're welcome and thank you for reading them. ^^

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

Since this is the "plug and play" module of the series...

What's the target level range? Part 4 said "level 11" and part 9 says "level 15" and this is part 7. So... level 13 for the Crooked Tower?

Are there any spells/abilities that are strictly required? (such as the dungeon assumes the party can Teleport)

I'm assuming the whole campaign is on the slow XP track?

Dark Archive

I couldn't find anything on level when I went and just looked. I might have missed it though.


Erik Freund wrote:

Since this is the "plug and play" module of the series...

What's the target level range? Part 4 said "level 11" and part 9 says "level 15" and this is part 7. So... level 13 for the Crooked Tower?

Are there any spells/abilities that are strictly required? (such as the dungeon assumes the party can Teleport)

I'm assuming the whole campaign is on the slow XP track?

I think because this is essentially one large sandbox-style series that you are better off checking out the Encounter Level of each encounter in the book and either increasing the EL by adding more or reducing by removing some of the enemies or what-have-you as needed for your own group's abilities. Plus each group is widely different in their make-up. Some groups of 4 13th level PCs may cake walk through some or most of the encounters (doubtful though). It is intended to be hard and a drain on resources. Prepared groups will always fare better. This is just my own personal opinion, of course.

Frog God Games

Awesome reviews guys! Thanks!

I hadn't noticed some of the questions earlier, so let me rectify below. :-)

Frog God Games

Russell Akred wrote:

I had a hard time visualizing the Crooked Tower. The drawing at the beginning of the book didn't help so I went into sketchup and did it after laying out the castle walls and the tiers within the walls.

** spoiler omitted **

That is fantastic, Russell, thanks! I will be stealing that for my own use. :-)

Frog God Games

Leonal wrote:

Cool Sketch Up of the tower, Russel!

Quite a fall down that cliff...:)

The half-ogre PC in my campaign actually survived it...only to die later. heh, heh

Frog God Games

Dosgamer wrote:
If a party of high-level PC's were intent on reaching Orcus and were making haste across/through the city, would they be able to easily skip this tower or is it required (for whatever reason) to gain access to the next part of the city? Apologies if the question doesn't make sense. I don't have the mental image of how the city is laid out in my head just yet. Thanks!

If you handwave the Nine Disciples' gatekeeping function, you can pretty much skip any part of the city that you want to. The adventure is sandboxy enough that it doesn't really require certain things to be done (beyond the whole Nine Disciples thing as mentioned).

Frog God Games

Erik Freund wrote:

Since this is the "plug and play" module of the series...

What's the target level range? Part 4 said "level 11" and part 9 says "level 15" and this is part 7. So... level 13 for the Crooked Tower?

Are there any spells/abilities that are strictly required? (such as the dungeon assumes the party can Teleport)

I'm assuming the whole campaign is on the slow XP track?

13th is probably a good ball park guess. Maybe lower if they are willign to leave and and recover before returnign (though the GM can have his own fun wiht that sort of thing).

Nothing is strictly required. Even teleport in later adventures is more of just an assumption that it will be available to parties of that level, but is not in and of itself required for successful play.

The XP track is tricky. It was written for the 3.5 XP track and when I converted I left all of the encounters intact, so I think its track is more of what speed and how many random encounters a GM wants to throw at the PCs. I think you could successfully play it on any of the tracks. I didn't calculate an optimal one, though my understanding is that fast most closely simulates 3.5 advancement based on James' RotRL update comments on other threads.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Just wanted to pop in say that the Dire Worg is awesome. I was disappointed that in book 2 of Kingmaker there is a reward poster for what ends up being a run of the mill worg (and a worg was my PCs 1st random encounter at 1st level and almost ate the halfing). I now have my solution!

Frog God Games

John Benbo wrote:
Just wanted to pop in say that the Dire Worg is awesome. I was disappointed that in book 2 of Kingmaker there is a reward poster for what ends up being a run of the mill worg (and a worg was my PCs 1st random encounter at 1st level and almost ate the halfing). I now have my solution!

Thanks! :-)

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