Pathfinder Adventure Path #47: Ashes at Dawn (Carrion Crown 5 of 6) (PFRPG)

***( )( ) (based on 7 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #47: Ashes at Dawn (Carrion Crown 5 of 6) (PFRPG)

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Chapter 5: "Ashes at Dawn"
by Neil Spicer

A killer stalks the streets of Caliphas, a murderer whose victims are already dead. Something is preying upon the ancient vampire clans of Ustalav’s capital, a mysterious foe who threatens the centuries-old truce tenuously held by generations of both the living and the undead. Into this madness enter the heroes, closing in on the death cultists of the Whispering Way. What role do the deadly necromancers have in the undead murders plaguing Caliphas? What secret grudge exists between the cult and the rulers of the night? And will the heroes be able to save the capital without sacrificing their very souls?

    This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path includes:
  • “Ashes at Dawn,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 11th-level characters, by Neil Spicer
  • A gazetteer of fog-haunted Caliphas, the mysterious and deadly capital of Ustalav, by F. Wesley Schneider
  • A terrifying look into the blasphemous church of Urgathoa, goddess of gluttony, disease, and the undead, by Sean K Reynolds
  • Laurel Cylphra’s attempt to steal a soul stealer in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by F. Wesley Schneider
  • Six new monsters by Crystal Frasier, Patrick Renie, and Sean K Reynolds

Each monthly full-color softcover 96-page Pathfinder Adventure Path volume contains an in-depth adventure scenario, stats for several new monsters, and support articles meant to give Game Masters additional material to expand their campaign. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes use the Open Game License and work with both the Pathfinder RPG and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set.

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-312-5

Ashes at Dawn is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure Path and Chronicle sheet are available as a free download (561 KB zip/PDF).

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

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***( )( ) (based on 7 ratings)

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Great murder mystery!

****( )

GOOD:
Very good as a stand-alone adventure.
Great for Investigators.
Athmospheric gazetteer of Caliphas, capital of gothic Ustalav.

BAD:
Not ideal as part of the AP.

UGLY:
-

If you like Vampires and Wesley F. Schneiders Pathfinder Tales "Bloodbound", this is for you.


Great Role-Playing Opportunities and Diverse Combats

*****

In my opinion, this is an excellent role-playing module for mid-level characters due to the opportunities it presents and morality questions it raises. I feel that Neil Spicer did an excellent job detailing an excellent array of villains with various motivations, despite their inherent nature of eating up a massive word count (vampires are always classed NPCs). I felt that this module does a good job at giving a great framework for setting up its different combats while keeping the role-playing heart of that intact. What's even better is that the writer has ambitiously written it so that the PCs can either join with or fight against the vampires encountered, allowing for two different ways to play it depending on the motivations of the group. While the module has its share of weaknesses, on the whole, its quite excellent. A more detailed review can be found Here .


Potential but needs work

*( )( )( )( )

There's quite a few good things about this installment:

1. Caliphas - great setting, gazzetteer article has some wonderful details to help bring this gothic urban setting to mist-shrouded life.

2. The vamp courtyard - Quinley, Luvick, Countess are all interesting NPCs and their is some good story/rp potential for the notion of helping the vamps.

However, this adventure comes on the heels of a side trek and mostly feels like a side trek as well. The background motivations for the villain's plan are too opaque to the players and as written most parties would probably wonder why they are going to this bother. Additionally, the

Spoiler:
tailor villain
is fairly forgettable and the last part of the adventure while a well written crawl feels stapled on. All in all, this is a very uneven adventure but with some good parts that a GM willing to hack together to fit the campaign better will get some good mileage out of. With the support articles the book would merit 2 stars but as this primarily a review of the adventure material I will indicate 1 star.


Ashes at Dawn or We haven’t done vampires yet, right?

*( )( )( )( )

If you are looking at this book expecting it to be a part of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path, it is attempting to reconnect with it. In the same way you attempt to halfheartedly reconnect with relatives you don’t like but try either way cause, “hey they are family….I guess”.

The module is a meh as a vampire story. More could be done with the vampires instead of just making them victims who don’t really care what is happening to them, but dismissingly get the PC to solve their problem be blocking them from proceeding or TPK them.

Overall, the adventure path is just starting to remember about the overall theme of the AP and attempts to wake itself up to that fact. Yet it has left the plot so neglected it has to block the PCs from advancing just to make sure they know what they are supposed to be doing.

Module is meh alone, but when a part of the AP it becomes easily forgotten.


Awesome Supplement!

*****

I don't have much to say about this adventure other than that if you like vampires (which everyone should), then you'll like this adventure. I'm not sure why other people are being so negative about this one, it's probably my favorite adventure in the whole adventure path!


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Dark Archive

Nice vamp. :) Just glad he doesn't sparkle.


Dark_Mistress wrote:
Nice vamp. :) Just glad he doesn't sparkle.

That's the vamp from Classic Horrors Revisited. I think his name is Aubrey (but I'm going from memory).

Edit: Checked my book. His name is Audbrey Aldamori.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Nice vamp. :) Just glad he doesn't sparkle.

I can guarantee there will be no sparkling vampires in this adventure. None. Zilch. Nada.


NSpicer wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Nice vamp. :) Just glad he doesn't sparkle.
I can guarantee there will be no sparkling vampires in this adventure. None. Zilch. Nada.

This doesn´t sound like "Twilight". Phew! ;)

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Looks interesting so far but I am wondering if this is the kind of Ap Paldins may have trouble with?


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Kevin Mack wrote:
Looks interesting so far but I am wondering if this is the kind of Ap Paldins may have trouble with?

Oh no!

(runs away from thread)


Not too keen on this one, from reading the blurb.

"All he asks in return is that the adventurers put an end to the murderer terrorizing the city’s vampires."

Yeah... I think not. Ganking them sounds like the better option. My players will be clear and unequivocal about that.

"This leads the heroes into an underworld of endless night, where they must explore the vampires’ deadly society and indulge its blasphemous traditions..."

Meh. This sounds a little... goofy... for me. It reminds me of something, but I'm not sure what...


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Arnwyn wrote:

"This leads the heroes into an underworld of endless night, where they must explore the vampires’ deadly society and indulge its blasphemous traditions..."

Meh. This sounds a little... goofy... for me. It reminds me of something, but I'm not sure what...

This perhaps?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oh no, poor players. They will have to chose between black and grey, instead of the usual black and white.

Whatever will happen to their delicate, innocent moralities ? I think we should notify the National American Comittee For Moral Purity In Role-Playing Games about this.


Gorbacz wrote:
Oh no, poor players. They will have to chose between black and grey, instead of the usual black and white.

*shrug* What my players find fun isn't up for debate.

Zaister wrote:
This perhaps?

No, it's not the 'endless night' thing, it's the other stuff.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Gorbacz wrote:

Oh no, poor players. They will have to chose between black and grey, instead of the usual black and white.

Whatever will happen to their delicate, innocent moralities ? I think we should notify the National American Comittee For Moral Purity In Role-Playing Games about this.

Note that with the APs, having black and white choices appears to be in the minority.

The whole gritty shades of gray thing is not completely horrible, but it is nice to have a straightforward heroic AP instead of yet another one where the players are working hand in hand with beings that I, as a GM, would rather see them pounding into the ground.

However, Kingmaker seems to fit that bill quite nicely so far :)


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Arnwyn wrote:
Zaister wrote:
This perhaps?

No, it's not the 'endless night' thing, it's the other stuff.

Yeah, but have you checked what Endless Night is about...?


Zaister wrote:
Yeah, but have you checked what Endless Night is about...?

Oh, I see where you're going with that.

Spoiler:
Having to disguise yourself and function in a depraved society.

I was thinking more of the vampirey stuff... but now that you mention it - that too!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Kevin Mack wrote:
Looks interesting so far but I am wondering if this is the kind of Ap Paldins may have trouble with?

Perhaps... but MOST of our APs have points where paladins will be faced with some tough decisions. That's a huge part of what being a paladin is—being faced with tough choices and managing to hold the faith and your honor anyway.

There's SOME "ally with the monster" elements in this AP, but when you get right down to it, that's EXACTLY the type of roleplay grist a paladin player should look forward to. Because if there's never a chance to test your faith and devotion... what's the point?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
gbonehead wrote:

The whole gritty shades of gray thing is not completely horrible, but it is nice to have a straightforward heroic AP instead of yet another one where the players are working hand in hand with beings that I, as a GM, would rather see them pounding into the ground.

However, Kingmaker seems to fit that bill quite nicely so far :)

Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the CT, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, and (by the looks of it so far) Serpent's Skull: all are, as you say, straightforward heroic APs. So far, only Second Darkness and this seem to have much in the way of siding with the lesser of two evils.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Generic Villain wrote:
gbonehead wrote:

The whole gritty shades of gray thing is not completely horrible, but it is nice to have a straightforward heroic AP instead of yet another one where the players are working hand in hand with beings that I, as a GM, would rather see them pounding into the ground.

However, Kingmaker seems to fit that bill quite nicely so far :)

Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the CT, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, and (by the looks of it so far) Serpent's Skull: all are, as you say, straightforward heroic APs. So far, only Second Darkness and this seem to have much in the way of siding with the lesser of two evils.

counter example spoilers:
Except for Mcmurrion's rival in the fortress, the Zonkuthonites in parts 3-5 of Curse, and the Mother of Flies/the redcap she sends in the eponymous chapter of Council of Thieves. From the descriptions of Serpents Skull, it also looks like you'll end up rubbing along with the other factions, if not working directly with them.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Super duper double counter spoiler:

My main point was, that ultimately those APs were fairly black and white. Yes, they included some shades of gray, but if your party would be uncomfortable with that, it's easy to change. Make the Mother of Flies an agent of the Council of Thieves old guard, whom the PCs have to hunt down and grill for information. Make the priests of Zon-Kuthon worship Pharasma instead. It changes the story a bit, and would require some tweeking, but honestly not that much.

Even more importantly though, it seems that every AP so far has source material from which it draws. RotRL and SD are classic Greyhawk - "Against the Giants" and "Descent Into the Depths of the Earth" respectively. CotCT and CoT are thick with freedom fighter/crime drama themes like Zoro and the Godfather. LoF is Al Qadim, or more accurately, "1,001 Nights." Serpent's Skull is Indiana Jones plus "Dwellers of the Forbidden City." And Carrion Crown... well, it's as Ravenloft as you can get.

And one of the most important themes in Ravenloft (and the Gothic horror tales that inspired it) is moral ambiguity. Would Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" have been worth reading if the Monster was just a savage, evil killer with no redeeming qualities? Would werewolves be nearly as provocative if they didn't have innocent human sides? And while Dracula is certainly as evil as they come, he's also suave, sexy, charming, etc.

To make a Gothic Horror AP path without moral ambiguity would be to utterly deny its source material. Unfortunately, that source material isn't for everyone.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Rest assured, I'm keeping an eye on this thread. And I'm also having lengthy discussions with James and Wes about how we'll handle the vampire interactions in the adventure. I think everyone should know by now, if there's anything I enjoy about game design (and especially adventure design), it's taking people's assumptions about what's expected and then go beyond that to see what's possible. Therefore, I intend to find a way to give everyone their "cake" and still be able to have them eat and enjoy it, too. But we'll see...

My two-cents,
--Neil

P.S. In the meantime, I have another "fanged" adventure to finish up with Serpent's Skull. After that, it's on to vampires!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The vampires are having guests for dinner, and you're invited...


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

If using spoiler tags, it is helpful to indicate what the spoilers are actually for, e.g. "Spoiler (CoT)".

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

NSpicer wrote:
Rest assured, I'm keeping an eye on this thread. And I'm also having lengthy discussions with James and Wes about how we'll handle the vampire interactions in the adventure. I think everyone should know by now, if there's anything I enjoy about game design (and especially adventure design), it's taking people's assumptions about what's expected and then go beyond that to see what's possible. Therefore, I intend to find a way to give everyone their "cake" and still be able to have them eat and enjoy it, too. But we'll see...

Hey, if you're looking for input, then I'll put in my two-cents that there should be an option to become a vampire as part of this module. Obviously, this presents a host of mechanical challenges (I seem to recall that your CR shoots up by 8 and you become evil-aligned), but I think it's a challenge worth taking on.

That makes for an interesting and difficult roleplay descision. Yea, you might mess up what happens in the module that comes after yours, but I'm sure James can handle it.

Or maybe I'm just too influenced by the level of flexibility in the Elder Scrolls games.

You should also be able to kill them all. Make it a lot harder, or otherwise give an incentive to not do it, but the idea of getting out your shining sword and having yourself a good-old-fashioned vampire-genocide is quite an alluring prospect.

Gets really interesting if you allow both options, and the party splits in their descisions. Also makes it a beast to write for you.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Zaister wrote:
If using spoiler tags, it is helpful to indicate what the spoilers are actually for, e.g. "Spoiler (CoT)".

Eh, I was trying to be cute. Didn't work I reckon... I'll repost the non-spoiler part of my argument:

Carrion Crown... well, it's as Ravenloft as you can get.

And one of the most important themes in Ravenloft (and the Gothic horror tales that inspired it) is moral ambiguity. Would Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" have been worth reading if the Monster was just a savage, evil killer with no redeeming qualities? Would werewolves be nearly as provocative if they didn't have innocent human sides? And while Dracula is certainly as evil as they come, he's also suave, sexy, charming, etc.

To make a Gothic Horror AP path without moral ambiguity would be to utterly deny its source material. Unfortunately, that source material isn't for everyone.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Erik Freund wrote:
Hey, if you're looking for input, then I'll put in my two-cents...

I'm not so much looking for input as I'm just acknowledging I'm keeping an eye on the thread and weighing everything as I collaborate with Wes and James on the adventure.

Erik Freund wrote:
...there should be an option to become a vampire as part of this module.

It's funny you bring this up. That possibility already entered into our conversation. But no promises yet.

Erik Freund wrote:
You should also be able to kill them all.

By this, I assume you mean the vampires. As in, kill all the vampires. That's a bit less likely. But that doesn't mean you have to let them all live, either. The possibilities are quite complex. But I haven't even strung together an outline yet and had it approved by Wes and James. So, it's a bit premature to decide everything just now. I'm still working on the finale for Serpent's Skull. That needs to come first. Then, a bit of a break for my wife and family's sake. Then, I'll come back to Carrion Crown and start analyzing those vampires to make sure it's a memorable adventure. Those are my goals and priorities right now.

--Neil


As for art, I'm hoping to see a reappearance of the vampire from the bestiary. She was in an illustration in CoT I believe as well.

Liberty's Edge

NSpicer wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Nice vamp. :) Just glad he doesn't sparkle.
I can guarantee there will be no sparkling vampires in this adventure. None. Zilch. Nada.

That's too bad. I'd love to see some vampires sparkle in Pathfinder. I'm sure it would be under some very unexpected circumstances... ;-)

My favorite vampire sourcebook of all time is the GURPS: Blood Types book, which detailed vampires from the Ancient Greek to the Japanese and even an African insectoid creature that drained the life force of plants! A real study on the topic. I'm sure I can find something in there that sparkles in an unpleasant way!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

About the closest you'll come to seeing sparkling vampires in Carrion Crown is if you hit them with glitterdust.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
NSpicer wrote:
About the closest you'll come to seeing sparkling vampires in Carrion Crown is if you hit them with glitterdust.

I hear some of them might sparkle on the inside. Try pulling them apart and see what happens.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

The product image and description have been updated to match the finished product.

Dark Archive

Just noticed the new art, nice.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

NICE!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Nice new art


Yeah, that's what elder vampires ought to look like.

And is it just me, or do all the monsters in this AP seem to be focusing on Seoni in the cover art?


Eric Hinkle wrote:

Yeah, that's what elder vampires ought to look like.

And is it just me, or do all the monsters in this AP seem to be focusing on Seoni in the cover art?

Well, it's a known fact that horror monsters go after 'sexual' female characters first :D. Oh and here's the obligatory TVtropes link.


Reptilian wrote:
Eric Hinkle wrote:

Yeah, that's what elder vampires ought to look like.

And is it just me, or do all the monsters in this AP seem to be focusing on Seoni in the cover art?

Well, it's a known fact that horror monsters go after 'sexual' female characters first :D. Oh and here's the obligatory TVtropes link.

Thanks for the link.

And I was wondering less the obvious "the monsters like sexy women" and more the fct that the less armor an adventurer wears, typically the more ways they have of blasting you to kingdom come with a snap of the fingers. You'd think that even the dimmest beasts would eventually learn to avoid the sexy half-naked sorceress after she incinerates a few dozen of them.


When does this ship to subscribers? I am making a seasonal move on July 10 and want to make sure I don't change to my new shipping address too early.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Katowice wrote:
When does this ship to subscribers? I am making a seasonal move on July 10 and want to make sure I don't change to my new shipping address too early.

It has not yet arrived in our warehouse. Odds are very good that it will arrive after July 10 for most people (if not everyone).


I love the title of this one, call me biased. :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

I'm sure they totally had you in mind when they came up with the title, Dawn. ;-)


Neil Spicer wrote:
I'm sure they totally had you in mind when they came up with the title, Dawn. ;-)

The name Dawn does come in handy sometimes. I get to claim all kinds of things, like Tempest's album Another Dawn. I just have to wear the shirt and point to the name significantly.

Dark Archive

Well got the first email, so we should start seeing shipments next week sometime.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got the first email, so we should start seeing shipments next week sometime.

Never thought I'd be sorry about Monday being a holiday :)


Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got the first email, so we should start seeing shipments next week sometime.

Wozzle wozzle!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
gbonehead wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got the first email, so we should start seeing shipments next week sometime.
Never thought I'd be sorry about Monday being a holiday :)

Yea, Paizo ruins one weekend a month! ;)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Neil Spicer wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Nice vamp. :) Just glad he doesn't sparkle.
I can guarantee there will be no sparkling vampires in this adventure. None. Zilch. Nada.

<casts Glitterdust on random vampire>

Lies!

:p


Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber

How very prescient of you.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Time to add another volume to my Neil Spicer collection! Yippee!


I want to see who they want dead more: my priestess of Sarenrae with the sun domain or the vampire serial killer. I'll give the vampires a moral dilemma.


Justin Franklin wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got the first email, so we should start seeing shipments next week sometime.
Never thought I'd be sorry about Monday being a holiday :)
Yea, Paizo ruins one weekend a month! ;)

Damn you Colonials and your Celebrations of Treason..

Happy 4th of July

Dark Archive

DM Wellard wrote:
Justin Franklin wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got the first email, so we should start seeing shipments next week sometime.
Never thought I'd be sorry about Monday being a holiday :)
Yea, Paizo ruins one weekend a month! ;)

Damn you Colonials and your Celebrations of Treason..

Happy 4th of July

I prefer to think of today not as the day of independence but instead as the day the world recognized we gave the British Empire a wedgey. :)

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