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

2.70/5 (based on 7 ratings)
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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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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Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Hayato Ken wrote:
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.

I don't believe that this is the case. Why is there an entry for Fencing Grace in the Campaign Clarifications document, if errata automatically affects all printings?

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kalindlara wrote:
Hayato Ken wrote:
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.
I don't believe that this is the case. Why is there an entry for Fencing Grace in the Campaign Clarifications document, if errata automatically affects all printings?

Because some people think otherwise and will come to argue. That entry saves a lot of discussions and headaches, that´s why.

I have to point out that i´m not the team making those entries, even though im a VO, so there might be different reasons.

In PFS it unfortunately quite often seems to be the case that when one trick gets clarified and banned, some people seek out other tricks which work the same way, but have a different name.

We might be getting far away from the topic of this thread and i see a different hammer lurking above us here ;)

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