Pathfinder Adventure Path #52: Forest of Spirits (Jade Regent 4 of 6)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #52: Forest of Spirits (Jade Regent 4 of 6)

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Chapter 4: "Forest of Spirits"
by Richard Pett

After surviving one deadly wilderness, the heroes emerge into another—a land of ancient mysteries and sacred secrets known as the Forest of Spirits. But the forest knows how to defend itself from strangers, and its powerful and aloof guardians, the kami, brook no harm to their eldritch home. Those who would defy the spirits of the land have little hope of survival. Yet those who prove themselves friends to this mystical realm and its strange inhabitants stand to gain not just great allies, but also knowledge of a secret evil that has long festered in the forest’s heart and now poisons all of Tian Xia.

    This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path includes:
  • “Forest of Spirits,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 10th-level characters, by Richard Pett.
  • An investigation of the mysterious creatures known as kami, honored defenders of the land and nature, by Mike Shel.
  • Insights into the ways and deadly techniques of the ninja clans of Minkai, by Jesse Benner.
  • Deadly guardian geisha and a journey into one of Oda’s seedier gambling houses in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Dave Gross.
  • Five new monsters, by Patrick Renie, Steve Russell, and Mike Welham.

Each monthly full-color softcover 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 world’s oldest fantasy RPG.

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-380-4

Forest of Spirits 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 (532 KB zip/PDF).

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

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Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.

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**½( )( ) (based on 7 ratings)

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Needs some tweaking, but then it's just fine!

***( )( )

By no means do I think that Richard Pett's "Forest of Spirits" is a great AP module. But for my DMing style, I always expect to revise sections of adventures and modules I don't write from scratch. It's like playing a cover song - you have to make it your own. "Forest of Spirits" simply required me to do more tweaking than usual. I won’t go over the same complaints as others, but will instead make my review a recommendation for other DMs to revise this module to improve it.
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! DMs only, beyond this point!
First, let me say I agree with those who found Part 1: Ordu Aganhei really weak and underdeveloped. I also agree that the dungeon crawl in Part 3: House of Withered Blossoms is very old school, with the “ongoing war between the current inhabitants” straining the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. Are we really to believe they haven’t killed each other off in 60 years? Sure, they upper levels are filled with the gaming equivalent of slacker pot-heads, but it still feels ridiculous. Further, what if PCs find a way into Munasukaru’s Penance without facing the upper levels of the House of Withered Blossoms? A savvy group could do it. Mine could. They’ve done it before, and then all that preparation I do goes out the window, or feels anticlimactic after the lower levels are finished.
So here are my recommended revisions.

1. Make Prince Batsaikhar a shape-shifted version of Akinosa. Move all the upper levels (everything but A1-A4) of The House of Withered Blossoms to the first part in Ordu-Aganhei. The module indicates that Prince Batsaikhar is a bit mad, as is Akinosa. It’s a matter of very little work to blend the two. Then, instead of simply having the Prince petulantly kick them out of Ordu-Aganhei, you can have him kidnap Ameiko, or all or some of the PCs and have them either awaken in the webs of “The Tower of the Spider” or have to storm that tower. The latter option is interesting, because the module states there’s a hole in the Golden roof of the Pagoda, something PCs could have noticed in their wanderings around the city. So they could enter through the roof, or from the ground. I recommend sticking your captives in A9a to ensure they have to endure some challenges before getting free or rescuing captive friends. As a side note, making Batsaikhar an Aranea sorcerer also explains why the feasts are filled with such messed-up food. While I love fantasy roleplaying, making Tian Xia a place where people eat food modeled after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s dinner scene is a moment of Orientalism, and unbecoming Paizo’s track record of great treatment of race and gender. Once the PCs are free of the tower, they can steal the horses with the fancy saddles that were supposed to be a gift.

2. Either move the ninja attack to the road to Minkai, or repeat it there, to force the PCs off the road and into the Forest of Spirits. Having Miyaro tell the group they need to go to the Forest because the Five Storms control much of Minkai is very different from SHOWING your group this is the case, both through Batsaikhar as likely open agent of the Five Storms (see 1.) and then reiterating this by showing them the roads are controlled. It’s a good rule for visual narrative, and gaming is effectively performance art, so SHOW your group, don’t tell them. An NPC should not be reduced to the carrier pigeon of exposition. Other than getting the group started into the forest, I like Part 2 just the way it is, save perhaps for the inclusion of the bonsai tree motivation for going into the House of the Withered Blossoms. More on that in the next point.

3. Pull a Mines of Moria motivation with the final part. The players cannot take the road, but the forest is proving as problematic. With the upper floors out of the way (save for A1-A4), the players can march into the House of Withered Blossoms with a clear sense of direction, but not necessarily purpose. Look at the map on page 18. Even after they’ve completed the dungeon crawl, they’ve got a long way to go to get to where the next part of the Jade Regent picks up, at the northern end of Minkai. What if the kimon, the portal at the end of the crawl, is still usable, but only to get the characters a short distance (yes, I know the module says only spirits travel this way, but it’s a fantasy game and you’re the DM, dangnabbit!)? Then the kami could use their suspicions about the Oni escaping as the proverbial carrot before the cart – “There may be a way to get to Minkai sooner in the depths of Munasukaru’s lair…” Make it a DC 30 Use Magic roll, or have the portal taint the PC who activates it in a way that will carry into the rest of your campaign, like Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke.

Also, I wouldn’t have Munasukaru unaware—make her a madwoman scorned, not just a madwoman. She’s been expecting Anamurumon to come back for her. Heck, a good diplomacy roll might result in her saying she’ll turn the portal on for the PCs, so long as they promise to kill Anamurumon.
I think these revisions demonstrate the breadth of the Five Storms’ influence in Tian Xia, making the module a crucial step in your PCs journey toward the conclusion of the Jade Regent!


Poor introduction of Tian Xia

**( )( )( )

First the good:

1. The first part of the adventure (roughly 1/3) is great. Hongal and the journey through the haunted forest provided for some memorable sessions and after crossing the crown of the world coming to Tian XIa felt momentuos to the players.

2. The kami and the history of the oni are fleshed out for the players.

Now the problems.

1. The Hongal chapter while good could've been further developed. I added material to this as it was a lot of fun and provided a mcguffin that the party wanted to get from the ruler.

2. As other reviewers posted this was about the worst time for a dungeon crawl and an indifferent one at that. I was able to plunder some stat blocks but I can't imagine any group enjoying that crawl with little payoff in the end.


Pretty average dungeon module

**( )( )( )

Although "Forest of Spirits" has three distinct parts, the majority of the adventure happens in a pretty big dungeon. This is mostly a location-based module with a very linear plot. The dungeon is pretty extensive but it's very straightforward to walk: A then B, then C. In essence, it's a very long succession of rooms with no real crossroads with different choices. The good thing about this, of course, is that your PCs will never get lost in this dungeon.

I'm sorry to say that the whole module is not a great read and doesn't inspire me to run it. It's a huge dungeon with room after room full of the same enemies. If you're following the Jade Regent adventure path, this module has absolutely no relevance on the overall plot and can be skipped or replaced at will. The characters learn nothing new from the plot and whatever happens doesn't affect the flow of the campaign, even if the characters decide not to explore the pagoda.

The good: There are a couple of good ideas in there that I'd like to test out. The spirits remind me another one of Richard Pett's brilliant ideas from Skinsaw Murders: haunts. I think there is potential in them and I wouldn't mind seeing how they work in actual play. They can be designed so that they interact with encounters to make them more difficult or quirky. Off the top of my head, you could make a bad spirit that causes bad luck on the afflicted character - à la pugwampi - and that can only be removed once you kill a certain creature - something that bad luck makes more difficult! The skill contest festivals can make for interesting encounters if the characters have invested properly in skills. It also has the potential to bore fighters and some others to death. I'd use this one with caution.

The bad: It's a really long linear dungeon without choices and with similar copies of the same kind of creature. If that's your style, you'll love it. It's very old school: the monsters exist only to meet their end when the adventurers enter the room they live in. The whole thing is executed in many levels and each of them has a mini-boss. Oh and the last level has a big boss... really old school.

Read the full review here


Missed opportunity

*( )( )( )( )

So we finally get into Tian Xia only to spend time in a massive dungeon grind... great. There are a few moments at the start where you get to take in some of the diversity of Tian cultures but then the book hits that massive wall of the most tedious dungeon grind one can imagine. Worst of all, this dungeon barely captures any of the exotic feel one might expect being in a strange place like Tian Xia.

What is truly annoying is the title - Forest of Spirits - is so intriguing and leads one to imagine some kind of exploration/sandboxy adventure but rather your stuck in a meatgrinder.

My suggestion, slip in Ruby Pheonix or an old Kara Tur module and skip that whole dungeon.


Strong start to a mediocre end

***( )( )

Will try and sum this up without too many spoilers. The book started out very strong, and my players loved the culture shock they received when they first arrived. It also allowed for some really good role-play and character development from the NPC's who have mostly been stuck with the caravan up to this point. It did take a down turn when they were leaving the first village because of their host suddenly refusing to see them, and closing off all trade to the heroes, and several of my players noticed that, and didn't overly like it. As the story progressed into the forest and the eventual dungeon, things started to drag; Encounter after encounter that ranged from needlessly easy ex grinds to, omg, why would they put that there. I've had more player deaths, or near player deaths in this book than any other mostly too the over-powered big encounters. While still strong story wise, the encounters need a bit of adjusting.


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Mr Pett is smiling..be afraid..be very afraid.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Oh, you have no idea. :->

Or, perhaps you do...


:)


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

I hope for a lot Fey, Elementals, Plants, and Ghostly creatures in this one.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Dragon78 wrote:
I hope for a lot Fey, Elementals, Plants, and Ghostly creatures in this one.

Well I wrote three Kami for the bestiary section and they are native outsiders that are very close to fey :)

I will be doing a video blog about them when we are closer to a release date.

Silver Crusade

lovin this AP! Glad I re-upped when the first came out!

RM

Dark Archive

Well got my email notice today that it would be shipping next week.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns Subscriber
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got my email notice today that it would be shipping next week.

I received my email last night so lets hope I am near the top of list for first shipments to be sent out. D_M your luck seems to have been consistent lately in terms of shipments.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
the Haunted Jester wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got my email notice today that it would be shipping next week.
I received my email last night so lets hope I am near the top of list for first shipments to be sent out. D_M your luck seems to have been consistent lately in terms of shipments.

I got my notice last night, as well. Now the AP can really begin to delve into more of the Tian Xian cultures of Golarion. I have really been looking forward to these last three issues of the Jade Regent AP; especially the last one, but for reasons I can't go into.


What oni receive stat blocks in the bestiary of this issue of Jade Regent?


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

Hopefully the Oni based on Humans(Kuwa).

I know we will get info on the Kami.

Dark Archive

the Haunted Jester wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Well got my email notice today that it would be shipping next week.
I received my email last night so lets hope I am near the top of list for first shipments to be sent out. D_M your luck seems to have been consistent lately in terms of shipments.

Yeah well i am fairly sure I am in the largest group of subscribers the superscripers which means that group is done first. Though occasionally I end up near the end, normally that's when i order extra stuff though.

Either way I am hope early next week to get the PDF's.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I noticed the product description was never updated along with the cover illustration...


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

I thought that is supposed to be the final cover?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Dragon78 wrote:
I thought that is supposed to be the final cover?

Current cover (samurai dressed in jade armor standing in front of a hobgoblin attack in the forest) is indeed the final cover. If you're seeing something else, your internet browser is acting snarky.


I has a book. Flipping through!


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

Lucky you Ice Titan, mine will more then likely ship tuesday and get here next week.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dragon78 wrote:
Lucky you Ice Titan, mine will more then likely ship tuesday and get here next week.

My copy of the last module hasn't arrived yet. But I'm not panicking yet, I had it take a little over three weeks one time for the module to ship over the ocean.


Art's good. Maps are huge. I was going to make a tongue-in-cheek joke about 80 square long maps.

Spoiler:

It actually contains one that is 100.

Great looking maps, though. I alternate between loving Jared Blando for maps like this and hating him when he draws off-geometry with maps like Brinewall Castle.

Dark Archive

Ice Titan wrote:
I has a book. Flipping through!

Looks like people are starting to get there's. Guess I will need to check ever so often and see if mine has shown up.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dragon78 wrote:

Hopefully the Oni based on Humans(Kuwa).

The Kuwa Oni will be in Bestiary 3, not the Jade Regent AP. Forest of Spirits will probably have the Oni based on hobgoblins (Janoi?). Each of the last two adventures would then feature one of the Yai (Oni based on a giant).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Got it! Love it! Even better, I do believe I have successfully reverse-engineered the Kitsune Character Race from one of the NPCs.

The Ja Noi is the only oni entry in this issue's bestiary. The other entries are all kami.

The new NPC ally introduced in this issue does not get a romance score.


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

So it is the Ja Noi(hobgoblin) Oni then and a bunch of Kami sounds cool to me.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns Subscriber

Just got mine, I cannot wait to begin reading it tonight!!

Dark Archive

Mine is still pending, I should really quit adding to this shipment, but I keep findIng things I want.


Ashanderai wrote:

Got it! Love it! Even better, I do believe I have successfully reverse-engineered the Kitsune Character Race from one of the NPCs.

The Ja Noi is the only oni entry in this issue's bestiary. The other entries are all kami.

The new NPC ally introduced in this issue does not get a romance score.

Totally jealous you got yours :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Seems like I got it yesterday, only that my notification mail didn't arrive yet.

First impressions:

- Finally some diplomacy and roleplaying-heavy encounters, in the first half of the module! Looks fun and I'll look forward to seeing how my players handle them.

- Sadly, there's once again basically nothing for our important NPC's to do. There's even nothing to indicate what the GM is supposed to be doing with them while the PC's are off in the different encounter locations. Some reasons why the NPC's aren't accompanying the PC's would have been very much appreciated, also some further guidance at which level they are supposed to be kept in respect to the PC's.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

magnuskn wrote:
Seems like I got it yesterday, only that my notification mail didn't arrive yet.

Notification emails are sent within seconds of the order being processed (and of the PDF being attached to your account). Check your spam filter?


so, whos the hoss guy on the cover???


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

No one designs akward, hilarious social situations like Richard Pett. This issue is packed with roleplaying goodness.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Y'know, this book went really, heavy deeply into the Oriental horror vibe. The primary dungeon has more things in to gross and horrify the characters then anything in Carrion Crown.

If you think the Oni are just some more faceless evils to beat on, this book will disabuse you of that notion quite severely.

==Aelryinth

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

magnuskn wrote:
Dragon78 wrote:
Lucky you Ice Titan, mine will more then likely ship tuesday and get here next week.
My copy of the last module hasn't arrived yet. But I'm not panicking yet, I had it take a little over three weeks one time for the module to ship over the ocean.

Do you download the PDF's to look through? they are available probably a week before the product ships. Just DL them.

Given I'm renting now, I'm actually wondering what to do with all the paper copies when I eventually move. I love being able to pick up and read something, but I do have to say, data is a lot more portable.

==Aelryinth


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Seems like I got it yesterday, only that my notification mail didn't arrive yet.
Notification emails are sent within seconds of the order being processed (and of the PDF being attached to your account). Check your spam filter?

Paizo ain't in it. :) It's just as possible that I simply deleted it with some other mails, although that happens very seldomly. If next month the same thing happens, I'll make some noises. ^^

Contributor

magnuskn wrote:
Paizo ain't in it. :) It's just as possible that I simply deleted it with some other mails, although that happens very seldomly. If next month the same thing happens, I'll make some noises. ^^

It does look like your email notification went out, but it's entirely possible a grue ate it. Please let us know if you have any further problems with emails from us!


Does this adventure have princess mononoke style giant spirit animals?


Ashanderai wrote:

Got it! Love it! Even better, I do believe I have successfully reverse-engineered the Kitsune Character Race from one of the NPCs.

The Ja Noi is the only oni entry in this issue's bestiary. The other entries are all kami.

The new NPC ally introduced in this issue does not get a romance score.

We get our first look at a Kitsune? Now I gotta get it -- okay, I had to get it in any event, but now it's a case of 'Before I buy any other Pathfinder books'.

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Minor question. Oni and Kami seem to get Common as a language, sometimes their only language. I cannot believe this is Taldane, so is 'Common' now used relatively to denote the common language of an area, i.e., in this case probably Tien?

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder

Fleanetha wrote:
Minor question. Oni and Kami seem to get Common as a language, sometimes their only language. I cannot believe this is Taldane, so is 'Common' now used relatively to denote the common language of an area, i.e., in this case probably Tien?

In the bestiary pages for oni and kami, we use Common as a language, since that's what's in the Core Rulebook. As Tien is the "common" tongue of Tian Xia, they should definitely speak Tien instead if they're encountered there. The actual kami and oni in the Adventure Path have Tien (and other Tian languages, especially Minkaian) in their stat blocks. If a stat block in the adventure lists Common and Tien, then the creature speaks Taldane as well.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

So the green dude on the cover is the Jade Regent right? does that mean he's a badass samurai? What? No spellcasting BBEG?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

1 person marked this as a favorite.

MWAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

The description has been updated to match the finished product.


The Painted Oryx wrote:
So the green dude on the cover is the Jade Regent right? does that mean he's a badass samurai? What? No spellcasting BBEG?

its not true... but is that possible?

how would you do a non spell casting BBEG that does not basically oneshot the party....

interesting to try.

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I am pre-rereading before I run this. A question;Does Li Xu (pg 17) have a xp award? if so it is not in her stat block. Just asking .

Paizo Employee Developer

Rocannon II wrote:


I am pre-rereading before I run this. A question;Does Li Xu (pg 17) have a xp award? if so it is not in her stat block. Just asking .

Li Xu is NG, so she does not have an XP award. As explained under XP in "Elements of a Spirit" on page 16, "The PCs do not earn XP for destroying a good spirit or a spirit that provides a boon."

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

thnx, I must have missed that line.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

It'll be very interesting to see if sales on this issue spike. ^_^

Dark Archive

Kalindlara wrote:
It'll be very interesting to see if sales on this issue spike. ^_^

Huh, did something special happen for that to happen? .-.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Presumably, there´s a jingasa in here which might not see the errata, since AP´s normaly don´t get that treatment.

Dark Archive

Hayato Ken wrote:
Presumably, there´s a jingasa in here which might not see the errata, since AP´s normaly don´t get that treatment.

Oh, so whether PFS players would buy this AP part to get item that got nerfed in ultimate equipment errata in its pre nerf form?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

PFS players as well as the PFS GMs and the PFS team have to stick to the errata, no matter wether there is another source of the item getting not errataed or not. This was a design team decision, the PFS team wasn´t involved and for PFS players there´s no way around.

Some people might want to keep the pre-errata stuff though and buy those PDFs now for this cause. So more of a not-PFS thing.

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