Way of the Wicked—Book #4: Of Dragons and Princesses (PFRPG) PDF

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BECOME A MASTER OF DRAGONS!

The king of Talingarde must die! Your dread master commands you to carry out this errand of blood. Do you have what it takes to assassinate the king of the most noble, virtuous realm in all the world? Are you ready to seek out the most wicked and powerful of dragons and treat with him to destroy the king’s only heir—the fair princess Bellinda?

Welcome to the fourth chapter of the critically acclaimed, Ennie-nominated “Way of the Wicked” adventure path!

Inside you’ll find:

  • "Of Dragons and Princesses,” an adventure compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game designed for 13th-level villains by Gary McBride
  • Full color art and maps by Michael Clarke
  • A gazetteer of the noble city of Matharyn, capital of Talingarde
  • Rules for playing vampire and lich PCs
  • Everything you need to run a city sacking sandbox
  • And More!

Sack a city! Terrorize a nation! Kill a king! Ride a dragon into a battle! All of this you must do if you are to walk the Way of the Wicked.

Who wants to be a hero, when it’s so much more fun to be the bad guy?

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***** (based on 5 ratings)

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Holy Guacamole

*****

You're only half-way through and your group of terrors are already 13th level? Oh myyyy.

This chapter fully expects your villains to use the mighty magics and killing power at their disposal. Lacking access to 6th and 7th level cleric/wizard spells could severely hurt your ability to wreak havoc and unleash further mayhem.

One of the pleasant surprises during the later chapters of the Way of the Wicked is how long circle of death and similar spells remain viable offensive spells, which is a first in my experience with published 3e/3.5/Pathfinder campaigns.


Of Dragons and Princesses Review

*****

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

This installment of Way of the Wicked was a pleasant surprise for me. After running through three great books, I shouldn't have been surprised when this one turned out to be a blast. However, on paper there were a few things that worried me about this book.

My first concern was the first act of the book. It is a sandbox style sacking of the city of Daveryn that is quite long and seemed like it would risk being stagnant. I still do believe that this is potential weak spot in the campaign. However, this weakness was easily navigated by cherry picking the sections that I thought would be interesting to my players and having Fire-Axe bring them up to the players. The rest of the events, I just held in reserve in case my players decided to explore. Personally, I ran the Duelist Academy event, because we had a Swashbuckler who loves challenging people to duels, the Baroness's encounter, because she is the cousin of one of the PCs and I merged the prison and the rebellion into one encounter, because I knew my PCs would love the opportunity to recruit prisoners and Ifran had useful information. I also ran the Duke's encounter via minion quest. All of these events seemed enjoyable for my players.

My second concern for this game was that the story seemed very reliant on the players making specific choices. I feared that players would decide not to bother with Chargammon or try to kill the princess. However, I did not face any issues with this. Thorn's plan offered enough intrigue for my players and Dessiter was a useful tool for persuading the players out of inadvisable plans, like trying to take Thorn out immediately.

In addition to the above areas, there were some other really great parts of this book. Eiramanthus in particular turned out to be a great boss battle. Spells like Mislead and Reverse Gravity made for a memorable and cinematic feel, while his melee prowess and anti-magic field had a reasonably optimized party of six fearing for their lives. The battle was so good that the happiest player at the table was the one who died, because she thought her death was epic.

The characters continue to be excellent. Chargammon was appropriately terrifying. Jeratheon is a fun addition. His dysfunctional relationship with his father opens up a lot of interesting RP opportunities that I think will continue to pay off after Chargammon's death. Also, even though Dessiter was introduced in the last book, I feel obliged to acknowledge him again, because he is such an excellent character. Every time he says something I can tell my players aren't sure whether to laugh, buy him a drink or punch him in the face.

Overall, this whole adventure path continues to be excellent and I have yet to find a good reason not to recommend it.


*****

I've reviewed this book over on RPGGeek.com.


4.5 stars - a great adventure with minor weaknesses in the finale

*****

This pdf is 106 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages maps of Talingarde, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 99 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following text contains a lot of SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right!

The last adventure had the PCs in a precarious situation - the sacking of the most holy places of Mitran religion can easily be botched and thus, this adventure kicks off with the PCs either fleeing from the Vale with an army on their heels or triumphantly marching from it in charge of their own dark forces. Worse for Cardinal Thorn's dread masterplan - his third knot, the assassins in charge with dealing with the regent King Markadian failed and were vanquished and his mole in the army is too frightened to assassinate the king. His plan seems to be crumbling - but there are the PCs, aren't there? These people have been a valuable asset, but they are getting too strong. Thus, Thorn develops a Xanathos gambit that may very well backfire: The king dearly loves his daughter and this is his weakness - if a sufficient threat surfaces in the royal palace, he'll come to the rescue - with the elite of his guard. But what constitutes a sufficient threat? What about Chargammon, legendary old black wyrm? Yeah, that should do the trick. The PCs get a lackluster assignment - recruit the extremely hostile Chargammon, known to slay all intruders to attack the royal palace and in the chaos ensuing the King's return, kill the regent, a formidable foe himself and destroy his elite guard. Even if they fail, Thorn wins - gaining finally the leverage to force his mole's hand. Now if that does not smell of suicide mission, the PCs are dumb. For now, though, they'll have play along.

Thus, the module kicks off with the PCs leaving Valtaerna, either at the helm of their own successful army and with an enhancement to their own evil organization or with their tails between their legs, fleeing from a vast army featuring a magic banner. Rescuing their bugbear commanders, their hippogriffs, teleportation magic - a bunch of options to escape after a botched invasion are there and even abandoning the rank-and-file goons is expected (they can be replenished), though not necessary - the PCs can actually lead their army through the wintry, deadly passes to escape with their organization intact. Once they rendezvous with the Fire-Axe, they'll see that at least the sacking of Daveryn went as planned - the city has fallen and Sakkarot wants to talk to them - and trade information, for Sakkarot, ina fit of melancholy, tells them the details of his deal with Thorn and that in the end, he is to take a fall against the Asmodean "saviors" once Talingarde has plunged into chaos. More worrying is that Tiadora and Thorn seem to be rather stingy with new orders/plans. But before new orders are issued, the PCs will have some fun - sacking Daveryn, district by district, looking for loot as well as allies and the missing duke, squashing resistances etc. - the city comes with a beautiful , player-friendly full-color map that includes the names for the district, but thankfully no annoying numbers. And it is neat to see the consequences of the PC's actions, e.g. the Tears of Achlys, which claim victims and remain a potent and deadly threat. A total of 4 looting tables, plus one for magic items and multiple random encounters supplement the planned encounters that are part of the looting: From breaking the last remnants of the resistance (e.g. the remaining city watch and a company of soldiers) to an interesting find in the local wizard's tower, the PCs have some challenges waiting: Said Wizard has the hints to the legendary wyrm Chargammon's nest as well as more vital clues: The Duke is still inside the city walls and hiding and the lord of eagles seems to have captured the spawn of Chargammon. It should also be noted that the diviner's spellbook and notes make for some cool treasures - especially the lavish description of the spellbook is a nice touch. Of course, even now the PCs can make new allies: The Baroness Vanya of Veryn, holed up in her mansion would make Cersei Lannister pale in comparison to her wickedness, but she's also a consummate politician that may make for a valuable ally regarding social interactions. The insane glory-hound and duelist master Rodrigo would make for the second potential ally - while not evil, he is amoral and cares only for his craft. Add to that spymaster Anton Breuder (who could provide a benefit in a future module), the option to steal the sapphire of storms (if the PCs are up for Mission Impossible-style trap disarming) and we're in for some fun. Better yet, if the PCs have failed to keep the slaughter of Valtaerna secret, the local prison could serve as a means to replenish their organization and a means to recruit Irfan al-Janbiya, the one assassin who was spared the righteous wrath of Sir Richard when he crushed the third knot. Once the PCs have found and dealt with all sources of information (good place to torture the subdued duke and perhaps a Mitran cardinal), the PCs could move onward -or they could do a cool sidequest for Grumblejack (or Raiju) to collect different types of spirits they may find strewn around the city - rather cool and adds some neat details to the local economy. The climax of the sacking should come as both a challenge to the PCs and as a sign that they are truly infamous: Two angels come down from the heavens to put them to justice.
Speaking of outsiders - Tiadora, this time accompanied by 9 errinyes, makes finally an appearance and hands off the quest to the PCs, acknowledging (perhaps subconsciously) that they did ALL the successful, major work in Thorn's gambit. By now the PCs should slowly starting to grasp that their master becomes concerned with their power. For now, though, they are off to the aerie of the Eagle Lord, a mythic being that commands the storms itself to rescue a black dragon - either by slaying the legendary bird and its court or by subterfuge and then have to deal with the rather dumb and deceitful spawn of the great wyrm to secure an audience and get them past the array of deadly river drakes guarding the isle. Worse, the duplicitous dragon does not warn them against the other defenses of the great wyrms lair, which makes e.g. the viper vines all the more deadly. Not as deadly as negotiating with an utterly chaotic evil black wyrm, though - in the end, PC ingenuity should prevail (there are btw. alternate ways to secure an audience) and they're off on a quest for the wyrm - to slay his rival, the copper wyrm Eiramanthus. Slaying a dragon is never easy and slaying this particular one is no exception.

The charismatic copper wyrm is a known planeswalker and has, in his travels far and wide, secured an array of concubines of surprising power - from Setia Swims-the-Sea-of-Stars, a ceteceal agathion to Sakari Yoshimune, a Toshigami Kami to finally Shakti Shobhana, a redeemed tataka rakshasa, the respective companions will provide quite a challenge - on their own. If the PCs are dumb enough to race into the island with drawn weapons and without a good plan to take care of them one by one, they will be squashed - especially with the allies of the respective concubines and potentially the copper dragon master of the island joining the fray. Add to that the labyrinthine quarters, crystalline gargoyles and a xorn emissary and a puzzle on a chess field, an interdimensional witchwyrd genius studying planar travel and the villains will be sorely tested even before they reach Eiramanthus, who true to his breed, will be rather communicative at first - of course, conflict with the noble being is inevitable and in the end, either he (and all remaining servitors/companions) or the PCs will be dead. And the rewards are nice indeed - the draconic hoard not only contains quite a bunch of unique treasures and is presented in excruciating detail, it also contains yet another piece of fabled hellbrand, dark blade of Asmodean champions and the demi-lich called "Nameless Tyrant", encased in crystal and yet another potential minion, albeit a very dangerous one - especially the knowledge of the lich-transformation might be interesting for the PCs Even more interesting, though is the infernal ally Dessiter, who warns the PCs of the impending treachery in Book 5 and to keep away from Thorn and plot his demise, adding quite a bunch of interesting pieces of information to the PC's repertoire, including the reason why Sir Richard has not yet been eliminated.
And then coolness begins - for the deed of slaying the copper wyrm, the PCs are actually rewarded by Chargammon in a rather cool way: He forces his son to serve them for 100 years - the PCs can now ride a black dragon into battle! Hell yeah! It's time to slay a king - in a month. First, wise PCs should explore the city of Matharyn and stock up - for before slaying the king will be perhaps their last chance for a while to get things done before the breakneck show-down with Thorn. The final location then, the Adarium, beckons and powerful wizards can be slain as well as celestials, righteous pyre-golems destroyed and diplomatic relations ruined (if the PCs act smart...). Secrets can be unearthed - including the hidden location of Hellbrands final component and Thorn's phylactery. Better yet, the magical prodigy princess and Sir Richard are here as well, guarded by an honor guard and a golem of mithral, their defenses are extensive and will ensure that the two get away - and for now that might be good, as it turns out the princess of Talingarde is not only beautiful, she's also a silver dragon-spawned prodigy of magic and when Sir Richard is defeated by Chargammon's assault, she intercedes and actually slays the dragon. Meanwhile, the PCs will have quite a battle with Markadian V and his elite guard on their hands.

The pdf also offers extensive troubleshooting advice and help with what/if-scenarios regarding the module's plot and the consequences we can expect from the potential of failure. We also get a whole page depicting the outcome of the clash between the Fire-Axe's armies and the forces of the king sans their leader that serves as an introduction to the things to come. The city of Matharyn gets a lavishly detailed gazetteer-section, including information on putting the PC's organization to the test against the excellent night watch. The pdf also offers advice for lich and vampire PCs and a run-down to make Way of the Wicked an all-vampiric campaign, from Book I to VI.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I encountered some minor typos spread throughout the module, though no enough to rate it down. Layout of the AP is beautiful and on par with Paizo publications and the artworks and cartography are stellar and up to the highest quality. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a semi-printer-friendly version without backgrounds as well as another pdf that includes the handout as well as player-friendly versions of all the maps sans the annoying numbers -AWESOME!
The fourth module of the WotW-AP is a wicked ride of fun, but one that needs careful planning on part of the DM - the module relies on the PCs completing the plan in spite of its flaws and a lot of quid-pro-quo-quests. To truly make this module work, a GM has to be up on his game. That being said, the module nevertheless is a stellar example of cool things to do and the villains will finally feel as if they are infamous indeed - the attacks by celestials and the forces of good finally directly attack the PCs and the option to gain a dragon mount rocks. Challenging creatures like a dragon and an ancient nature spirit is iconic indeed. That being said, there is at least one potential problem I see with the module: While the capital of Talingarde is detailed and the Adarium a challenging climax, it is the final section that needs a bit of DM-expansion: The pdf does not cover HOW to enter the Adarium and while the players have a multitude of tools at their behest, some guidelines would have been nice. Additionally, the PC's infiltration while their "threat" forces the king's hand could have been made more iconic, with more guards that are slain while the PCs are running the corridors. A timeline or some cinematic scenes in which the PCs can see how their wicked ally vanquishes otherwise lethal roadblocks in the module would have added some gleeful spite to their accomplishments.

That being said, I am complaining on a very high level here - this module is still an excellent, awesome ride and while it has no new mechanics like the two immediate prequels, it offers the PCs a chance to reclaim an organization and make new allies - though I would have loved to see more for the villain's cohorts to do. In contrast to the attack on Valtaerna, this module does not offer much to do for the poor cohorts apart from accompanying the PCs, which is a pity - give the psychotic alchemical golem, Grumblejack etc. something to do in the Adarium. (Though the sidequest provided for a cohort is awesome...) Perhaps a sabotage of the golems, a reconnaissance, making the assassin kill the court mage etc. - something like that. While easily done yourself, I would have nevertheless enjoyed to see some love there. Again, please bear in mind that this is still complaining at the highest level. Book 4 provides us with interesting challenges, is logical and makes for a fun ride for your villains and while personally, I slightly enjoyed the first 3 books more due to aforementioned minor nitpicks, I maintain that this pdf is still an excellent module that this time lacks hard-to-presume assumptions like the communication-blockade in book III - in fact, many adversaries herein utilize spells etc. to piece together information on your PCs, lending an air of credibility to the world and the actions of your dastardly group of devil-worshipers. The additional material is also up to the stellar quality of the book, though personally I don't like the section on vampire and lich-PCs - honestly, these topics need to be tackled in much more detail to work smoothly, at least speaking from experience. I have a vampire-PC ( a fallen, blessed priestess that turned towards bloodthirsty fanaticism) in my home-campaign and rest assured, the implications go beyond what one would expect at first.

How to rate this, then? You heard my nagging complaints and might ask yourself why I'm so utterly nitpicky with regards to these modules. Why? Well, because the Way of the Wicked is that good. Honestly, "Call forth Darkness" is perhaps one of my most favorite modules ever. And the others are not far behind. From the craft's perspective, the 4th module is solid and the attention to lavish detail, the cool creatures and of course, the presence of dragons as both adversaries and allies will lead a sense of empowerment to the PCs. For me, the finale was not as satisfying as it could easily be - however, the remedy is so simple that no DM should be stumped to improve it. In the end, I feel I have to be careful to not hold any installment of Fire Mountain Games' AP to a standard of its own and instead deliver a verdict in the grand context of publications. Not every adventure can do something radically new, after all. Thus, my final verdict for this part of the AP will clock in at 4.5 stars, gladly rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform - an excellent module that could use a bit more guidance/epicness in the finale, especially when the conquering in Book III and the escape/march from Valtaerna shows how well author Gary McBride can handle such situations.

Endzeitgeist out.


Face some of Taingarde's most powerful here, but keep the plot flowing smoothly.

*****

It’s universally understood, though not often said, that evil is simply cooler than good. Evil people are the ones who get to dress in the most arresting outfits, make the grandest speeches, and perform the most memorable actions. Simply put, evil characters make a bigger impression than their righteous counterparts…though oftentimes the good guys can come close.

In Way of the Wicked Book Four: Of Dragons and Princesses, players and GMs get to see this truism up close and personal. Heck, it’s even in the book’s title – this is adventure is all about those most fearsome of beasts, dragons, as well as women of nobility and power. While the PCs have met some truly arresting characters so far, it’s here that they begin to truly begin interacting with the kingdom’s power-players on a regular basis.

But before we get any further into the meat of the adventure, let’s look at the technical aspects first. The fourth Way of the Wicked book comes as three PDFs. The first is the main adventure itself, while the second is a printer-friendly version thereof. The last one is labeled as being “player handouts,” which is a slight misnomer; rather, it’s a single player handout, and four maps of major areas that have all of the labels removed, making things easier for the GM (though some might grimace at the fact that the name of the place depicted is still featured on each map).

The main file, one hundred-six pages in length, presents itself fairly well on a technical scale. Copy and pasting are enabled, and the text is fully searchable. Bookmarks are present, but again there’s only one bookmark for each major section of the book; if you want to find a more specific sub-section, you’ll need to scroll to it manually. Both of these are also true for the printer-friendly PDF.

Unfortunately, the printer-friendly PDF only lives up to its designation half-heartedly. Its idea of being “printer-friendly” is to remove the background coloration from the pages, and set the page borders to being grayscale lines. All of the interior illustrations and maps are still there in lavish full-color.

Having said that, the main file is notably resplendent. The pages are set on a dark tan background (which, I think, is meant to look like parchment) with ornate black borders on three sides. Full-color maps are present for each major section, and of course the interior illustrations are all in lustrous full color as well. I must once again tip my hat to artist Michael Clarke, as the various pictures of the major characters that the PCs meet are, to be blunt, arresting. Each one of these pictures clearly conveys the thousand words that they’re worth.

My last technical critique is regarding what’s not here, rather than what is. There are no files that are optimized for e-readers or Macs. While this wasn’t a big deal to me personally, I suspect that it’s a bit more of a nuisance for those who want versions of the book optimized for those devices.

Now, let’s get down to the adventure itself. As with previous installments, this one actually begins almost exactly where the previous one ended – I’m of two minds about how the book actually opens with what feels like the epilogue to its predecessor; on the one hand, it feels almost anticlimactic, as instead of moving forward with the plot you’re dealing with the loose ends from your last adventure. On the other hand, this helps to lend a much greater sense of cohesiveness to the campaign as a whole, since the adventures feel much more interconnected…something I suspect was author Gary McBride’s intent.

Regardless, the adventure opens with the PCs in what’s left of the Vale of Valtaerna, having not only snuffed out the holy flames of the state religion’s most holy site, but also slaughtered every living thing in the valley. Or at least, that was the plan. If the PCs succeeded, then they get to march their army out (absorbing the surviving bugbears into their own evil organization, if the rules from Book Two are being used) with no fuss as they continue their evil plans.

Cogently, however, the book spends more time talking about what happens if the PCs failed and some survivors managed to escape. In this case, the winter thaw finds an army of light (FAR outnumbering the PCs’ forces) preparing to retake the Vale. This is another classical “villain moment,” in that it presents the PCs with the question of what they’ll do regarding their minions when it comes time to beat a hasty retreat. While the PCs can likely escape on their own, there are various actions presented, along with their consequences, should they also want to save their minions and greater retinue.

Once the PCs escape, it’s time for them to relax before their next assignment. Rejoining with the humanoid army led by Fire-Axe at the recently-conquered city of Daveryn, the PCs can kick back and accomplish some side-quests for a month. This is largely a chance to catch up on XP and treasure (in the form of some good old-fashioned looting), but does have several opportunities for the PCs to find several clues for their upcoming assignment.

Speaking of being assigned, after a month of squashing what resistance remains in Daveryn, the PCs’ master sends them one last assignment: to kill the king of Talingarde. Of course, this isn’t as simple as just poisoning his food – the king marches at the head of an army, and attacking him there is suicide. Rather, the PCs are to create a huge calamity back at his palace, where his young daughter resides. The king, loving his child so much, will magically transport back to defend her…which is when the PCs will ambush him.

Of course, this requires creating a disaster of sufficient magnitude, and it’s here that the titular dragons begin to come into play. The PCs need to enlist the help of the great black wyrm Chargammon. This is much easier said than done, as the dragon eats anyone who approaches him. So first, they need to find a way to secure an audience.

This part of the adventure seemed, to me, to be a bit rushed – not the issue of the PCs’ master giving them their next assignment (the book is actually very cognizant of the fact that the PCs are by now straining their metaphorical leashes) – but rather, how the PCs are supposed to think of the manner in which they’re to safely meet with Chargammon. Simply put, one of the aforementioned clues in sacking Daveryn is the key here, but the sandbox nature of the conquered city means it’s less than certain that the PCs will even look in the right place, let alone find it. The adventure basically tells the GM to make sure the PCs find this clue somehow, but only offers a few off-the-cuff suggestions for what to do if the PCs don’t go to the right area and look in the right place; it’s a weak point in what’s otherwise an excellent adventure.

Once the PCs discover the clue, it’s off to find the one person who can secure them a meeting with Chargammon. This is largely a sidetrek, as the adventure makes it fairly easy to locate the correct area once the PCs are on the right path, and the fight is relatively brief.

Only after this is done can the PCs meet with the powerful black dragon, being able to journey there in relative safety (I have to interject here that the picture of the black drakes that dwell on Chargammon’s island made me think of a certain dragon named Toothless). The actual meeting itself is anything but safe, however, as Chargammon is as arrogant as he is powerful. It’s very easy for PCs who are stupid or proud to provoke a fight that they likely cannot win. Again, this is an area where the plot moves along very thin rails; a minor disruption can have major repercussions here.

Chargammon, in the true style of RPG NPCs, won’t agree to do anything unless the PCs undertake a quest for him first. In this case, he wants a rival dragon slain – a copper dragon of less power but greater allies named Eiramanthus. This is no small thing, as like Chargammon, Eiramanthus commands his own island.

The island is an otherworldly place. Eiramanthus is a planeswalker extraordinaire, and alters his home to better reflect the nature of his travels. As such, the entire island has an alien feel to it that also gives it certain defensive properties. The major defenses are the creatures who dwell there, however – in addition to visitors and the local servants, Eiramanthus’s home is occupied not only by the dragon himself, but by his three concubines; exotic and powerful women that he wooed on his travels.

I was critical of some of the previous parts of the adventure because they had clear directions that they wanted the PCs to go, but offered only a relatively narrow range of options for how to make that happen. Here, the situation may seem somewhat similar, but I don’t hold this against the book. That is, if the PCs are stupid, they may end up facing Eiramanthus with most of his servants and concubines helping him, which is likely to overwhelm the PCs. It’s far smarter to use some degree of subterfuge to try and take them down one at a time or in small groups.

There’s little advice on what the situation is or how to make sure things don’t go south quickly. I don’t consider this a bug, but rather see it as a feature. This adventure is for high-level PCs, and at this point if they’re not using some degree of strategy, the fault is entirely their own. That the PCs are likely to face disaster if they try to kick in the door is how things are supposed to go. At this point, punishing them for not using their heads is the correct thing to do.

It’s after things are done here that the plot makes a significant leap, as it’s here that the PCs are given not only a great deal more information on their master’s past, but are given the first direct information regarding overthrowing him. The seeds for the next book are sown here…

Once Eiramanthus is slain (and his truly prodigious hoard, which includes some amusing souvenirs from other dimensions, has been claimed), Chargammon is willing to hold up his end of the bargain. Now all that’s left is to head to the capital city and prepare to lure the king into the death-trap. This is an area where the PCs will again have a chance to explore a major city, but that part is left to the gazetteer at the end of the book.

For the final act, the king’s palace is detailed. Sneaking in and overcoming the defenders isn’t what I’d call cakewalk, but it’s by no means a truly difficult affair, which makes sense as most of the martial forces have marched to the front. However, plenty of soldiers remain that even a high-level group should be wary of sounding an alarm before their ready to commit regicide. Once Chargammon attacks, however, the king (who is a paragon of a certain eight Virtues, for fans of a particular old school RPG series) comes running…along with his closest defenders. Remember, they came back because the situation was dire, so even caught unaware they’re still ready for a truly tough fight. To slay a king here will be no small thing for the PCs.

The adventure doesn’t quite end there, as there’s a “cut scene” involving Chargammon and the princess. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to make of this, as this is written as a narrative, and so it’s difficult to know if this is meant to be read to the PCs or is simply an extra for the GM. Ideally the former, but that might not be workable. Far better, at least in terms of practicality, was the FAQ-style section where the book dealt with what to do if things went awry at various points. This was a very bright idea, as this adventure more than others offered places in which various parts of the plot could conceivably be done out of order, ignored, or changed depending on the PCs’ actions. The suggestions for how to get things back on track are most welcome.

Of course, the book doesn’t end here. A gazetteer is given for the capital city of Talingarde, Matharyn. While I was expecting to be tired of city guides, I was once again proven wrong. Matharyn has its own feeling; whereas other cities are populated by people pragmatic in their approach to life and work, Matharyn really is a bastion of order and goodness. This is a city where the people are good and do good, and the author notes that this is quite likely to throw less-selfish evil-doers for a loop; it’s hard to imagine a society more perfect than one where everyone works for the common good and is genuinely happy. Luckily for those characters who want to destroy such virtue, there are ten brief side-quests given as well.

The final section of the book is a discussion regarding how to run the campaign for PCs who become vampires or liches. If this sounds random, it shouldn’t, as the previous book presented the PCs with a golden opportunity to become vampires, and this one presents a similar method for achieving lichdom (I won’t spoil the surprise here). This is the first of a two-part section, with this first one eschewing mechanics (save for one new magic item that allows vampires to survive in sunlight) in favor of advice and suggestions.

It’s worth noting that this section is also fairly lopsided in favor of vampires. While the initial part does talk about some of the issues with playing a lich (e.g. can lich powers be voluntarily deactivated? What to do if someone steals your phylactery?), the majority of it talks about what to do regarding the many weaknesses and restrictions of vampires. This may seem like would-be lich PCs are being snubbed, but it’s understandable given that vampirism is much easier for most PCs to achieve, compared to lichdom. The section closes out with book-by-book advice given for running Way of the Wicked as a campaign about the ascendancy of a vampire kingdom.

Overall, there’s little question that Of Dragons and Princesses stands alongside the previous three adventures as a high-water mark among adventures. However, it never exceeds the standards its predecessors set. Small issues regarding how smoothly the plot continues onward, along with one too many “fetch quests” for my taste (e.g. quest to figure out how to meet Chargammon, quest to secure his aid, etc.) make this an adventure that’s excellent by any other standard, but not quite so much as the others.

Of course, those are small complaints compared to what’s here overall. From the flight from Valtaerna to the first real discussion of overthrowing the PCs master to the assassination of the king and so much more, there’s a huge amount of high-quality adventuring to be had here. Stamp out rebels, murder kings, and bring the world one step closer to damnation as you perform deeds Of Dragons and Princesses.


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Silver Crusade

Must have it!


Thank Asmodeus payday is tomorrow!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

Must buy :)

... Still need to pick up the hardcopies of the older ones when I get a little extra money.


Asmodeus be praised! My prayers have been answered! Now I must clean up the the pentacle before the blood stains the stone...


Not available on drivethru yet...
MUST HAVE IT!


It's submitted on DriveThruRPG, they are just not as awesomely speedy as Liz on Paizo.com.

Gary

Contributor

Aww yeah. \m/

Spoiler:
Speediness may or may not be caffeine-induced.


Could you explain the print copy available on Paizo? Is it the same as the other 3 print copies that were available elsewhere?

Silver Crusade

I think I'll grab the print copy of this one. That'll induce me to go back and buy print copies of the previous three too.

Grand Lodge

Fire Mountain Games wrote:

It's submitted on DriveThruRPG, they are just not as awesomely speedy as Liz on Paizo.com.

Gary

No kidding. It's still not up there. I hope it's not going to be an issue like last time. That would suck.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Bought the PDF through Paizo, downloaded it, am reading it right now :)

Dark Archive

*does the little happy dance of joy*

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.

So... it's been a while since part four came out (almost 24 hours, man!!!), when are we going to see part five?

;-)


Options for vampire and lich PCs? Yikes.

Oh, but this looks great. I am so looking forward to getting this one.


Eric,

This is the first part of the article that deals with advice on integrating Vampire and Lich PCs into your party. In Book V, we get the crunch, alongside the first part of Jason Bulmahn's Hellbound article with new options for followers of Asmodeus specificly and evil PCs in general.

Matthew,

Hah. We are still shooting for having Book V out by the end of August. But I think the chance of a week or two delay are high. We'll see. I'll be sure that paizo's messenge boards and our facebook page have the latest news.

Midnight Angel,

After you've read it, tell us what you think. We love feedback.

Kevin_video,

I prefer to worry about the things I have any control over. But I will note I submitted to Paizo.com and DrivethruRPG within like three minutes of one another.

PathfinderFan64,

The print copies for sale here are exactly the same as the print copies for sale at DriveThruRPG. They are POD sent to Paizo on consignment. I hope that answered your question.

I think that caught me up with questions. Thanks for all the enthusiasm everyone and thanks for supporting "Way of the Wicked".

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Isn't book 5 a little bit late für new pc options? :(
I hope we (my group and others who already started wotw) can still use this stuff.

Silver Crusade

The lich thing is soon coming to a headpoint in my home game. I have one PC who wants to take that route, and another who is worried that him becoming one will trivialize the other PCs. I'm interested in seeing the information presented.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Patrick Kropp wrote:

Isn't book 5 a little bit late für new pc options? :(

I hope we (my group and others who already started wotw) can still use this stuff.

Better late than never!


Patrick Kropp wrote:

Isn't book 5 a little bit late für new pc options? :(

I hope we (my group and others who already started wotw) can still use this stuff.

Patrick,

For us, due to the demanding work schedules of Jason, it was basically a choice between never publishing the material and publishing it in Book Five and Six. So, we took option two.

However, some of the magic items are quite high level and will be useful even in the later chapters. And of course the feats and spells could be introduced at any time. If you already running the game, the archetypes...well, probably not.

That said, none of this is make or break. Book One is a complete adventure that needs no more outside material. But we are trying, by the end of Book Six, to create the best adventure path we can.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

My initial pass has maintained my excitement about running this campaign. This one does seem to be a little heavier on the "In order to do X, you must get Y on your side, which requires you to do Z," but that very structure should, hopefully, incite the PCs to do what needs to be done in Book 5!

Marsember will make a fine stand-in for Daveryn. About time someone burned that town to the ground anyway.

Grand Lodge

Fire Mountain Games wrote:

Kevin_video,

I prefer to worry about the things I have any control over. But I will note I submitted to Paizo.com and DrivethruRPG within like three minutes of one another.

Gary McBride

Makes me wonder what they're excuse is. I'm seeing tons of new stuff come out, including Pathfinder books, but none of it is your new one.

Hopefully they'll have it by next week.

Grand Lodge

Book 4 is now available at DriveThru.


Yeah - but only the pdf. Not the POD-Bundle. As much I like to see more than the preview and as much I like the path - I´m not going to pay 10$ more for having a preview. I hope this time the POD-Bundle doesn´t take so long.

Grand Lodge

Patrick Kropp wrote:
Yeah - but only the pdf. Not the POD-Bundle. As much I like to see more than the preview and as much I like the path - I´m not going to pay 10$ more for having a preview. I hope this time the POD-Bundle doesn´t take so long.

I got the pdf subscription so I'm okay with what I've got right now.


If you would prefer hardcopies I think you would see things different. :D

Dark Archive

Patrick Kropp wrote:
If you would prefer hardcopies I think you would see things different. :D

Drive Thru print copies charge me UK postage (rather than US postage like Paizo understandably does) so I am holding out for the hardcopy from them. It is a bit irritating that they are taking longer than Paizo to have them available for sale though.

Not that I am actually in any rush - I never run an adventure path until I have all the parts, so in my case feel free to put whatever "starting" material you like in books 5 and 6.


I just kill a few more pc... then they han use it for their new pcs. ;-)

Ps. Mott is a Killer. He took the maxed, buffed Eidolon of my pcs apart in round 1.


Amethal,

Sorry for the delay. We are pushing this forward as fast as we can.

And actually there is wisdom to what you say. You can run a fine adventure using a book or two before whole AP is published, no doubt.

But to truly get the whole experience and have the chance to experience every nuance, yeah, it's a good idea to wait to the whole AP is published.

*shrugs*

Still, as a publisher, I've appreciated reading all the actual play of Book One and Book Two while working on the later chapters. I think its helped me grow as an adventure designer.

I guess am I of two minds on this issue.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

The Exchange

amethal wrote:
Patrick Kropp wrote:
If you would prefer hardcopies I think you would see things different. :D

Drive Thru print copies charge me UK postage (rather than US postage like Paizo understandably does) so I am holding out for the hardcopy from them. It is a bit irritating that they are taking longer than Paizo to have them available for sale though.

Not that I am actually in any rush - I never run an adventure path until I have all the parts, so in my case feel free to put whatever "starting" material you like in books 5 and 6.

If you don't mind me asking how much does one hard copy plus uk postage cost amethal? I am thinking about getting a friend one as a present.


Appr. 30,-$

The Exchange

Hmmm thanks. So roughly £20 for the UK. Not bad at all.

Cheers


Matthew Winn wrote:

So... it's been a while since part four came out (almost 24 hours, man!!!), when are we going to see part five?

;-)

Any day now, no doubt. :)

Gary "Sleep is for the Weak" McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I just finish reading thru book4. i fully expected i am going to lose some of my players on this one. a high lvl princess that is just evil. hehe it is all good. i just waiting for the printed copy be for calling the hord to gather


A little confused by the ending. Are the PCs expected to witness the "scripted" confrontation between dragon and princess (in which case it would probably go off the rails quickly), do observers tell them later, or do they simply not find out about it until sometime next module?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Evil Midnight Lurker,

A good question and I should have put in a note in the adventure to clarify this. However, the answer is...

Spoiler:

Highly dependent on the PCs and where they are. The death of Chargammon is something they will definitely learn about at the beginning of Book 5. If they find Chargammon's corpse, a cowering servant could tell him what he saw.

Or they may be gone all together and learn about in Book V.

I'll say this, Book V once more picks up right after the events of Book IV so we'll be dealing with the aftermath in depth in Act One.

This book was about killing King Markadian and ends with his death and the death of Chargammon that happens simultaneously to that murder.

Hope that helps and I hope you enjoy the book,
Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Is there any reason you didnt make Markadian into a knight?

Grand Lodge

Patrick Kropp wrote:
Is there any reason you didnt make Markadian into a knight?

I always thought a fighter was a knight. Or did you mean a cavalier, the 3pp knight, paladin (also considered a knight), or something else?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I thought the first three sections were awesome. I especially enjoyed the

spoiler:
copper dragon's island.
It had some very cool, creative encounters, and was a very neat set piece. Alas, that made the last section all the more of a let down.

spoiler:
The Adarium was flat and a bit boring. Mostly empty rooms, a handful of guards, one or two named NPCs, and some golems. I understand why the place was mostly abandoned, but it could have still been an interesting set piece. Also, the only room that made me say "huh, that's cool" was the description of the fountain. By contrast, I think nearly every place in the dragon's island was somehow interesting.

I definitely hope future locations are more like the former, less like the latter.


Generic Villain,

Thanks for the feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

We really appreciate you taking a moment to tell us your thoughts.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


kevin_video wrote:
Patrick Kropp wrote:
Is there any reason you didnt make Markadian into a knight?
I always thought a fighter was a knight. Or did you mean a cavalier, the 3pp knight, paladin (also considered a knight), or something else?

Cavalier. The path has a definitive lack of them. Sir Balin would have been a nice knight too.


Patrick,

It is a fair criticism. There has only been one actual cavalier in the AP so far:

Spoiler:

Sir Valin Darian in Farholde, the heir of the Victor, is a cavalier.

Personally, I think the fighter class can be shaped to be a fine representative of a knight (we use the dragon archetype several times to help with this). But, perhaps you're right.

Perhaps we should use the cavalier more. If you do convert any major characters into cavaliers, please post them here. I'd love to take a look at them.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Just finished reading Book 4, loved it. Two things jump to my mind, one relating specifically to the game I've been running (currently working through Book 2).
First, I'm excited to see my PC's reach this point, as the only rogue they have is a knife master, which means no trapfinding, which will make many of the traps in this and later modules wonderfully wicked.

Spoiler:
Amazingly, Tasker Twelve-Knives is almost a 100% clone of the knife-master in the PC's group, aside from Tasker being smarter and having different rogue talents.

Second
Spoiler:
I really like the two end set peices. Most of the confrontation between the princess and Chargammon I'll read out to the PC's, I think of it as a scene in a movie that'll play out at about the same time the PC's are taking on the king. I also plan to include the Battle of Fallingbridge, except I won't mention that General Barca is the 8th knot, just describe him hauling out the clay seal and breaking it. I figure it can coincide with the battle with the king as well.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

John,

First, I'm glad you loved the book. Take a moment and write a review! We love feedback. Regardless, thanks for the kind words.

Spoiler:

Not telling the PCs that Barca is a member of the 8th Knot, that's brilliant. So brilliant, I wish I would have thought of it. Here's my cleaned up stab at what that body of text might look like:

In the city of Daveryn, General Vastenus Barca leads the armies of Talingarde into battle against the forces of the Fire-Axe. He gives a rousing speech to his assembled throng before the battle about how “…in one glorious stroke we will free Daveryn and slay the monster that threatens us all!” His men gallantly raise their swords and salute their high-born general. General Barca orders these valiants en masse to attack the northern gate. “They think their flank conquered and pacified. They will never expect we men of the south and west to attack them from the north!”

Thanks to the infiltration of the city, Northgate was completely undamaged in the fighting as the city was taken. The gate house of Northgate and its two flanking towers are fully manned by the Fire-Axe’s most veteran troops as the battle begins. Every square foot of those ramparts is crammed with hardened killers.

Behind the gate waited a host of ogres and trolls kept in line by a mighty frost giant. Again and again, the men of Talingarde charged those
gate houses. Valiant knights, hardy yeomanry, and a thousand low-born volunteers here only because they believed in the dream that is Talingarde – charged those walls following the Sacred Banner of St. Theonas that had shielded them through the winter chill. And upon those walls they died. Not by the tens nor the hundred, but by their thousands. They hallow the ground with their sacrifice. Duty officers and lesser soldiers beg General Barca to stop the assault. “No,” he answers, “I can feel the enemy breaking. And once broken here, we shall break them everywhere.”

The slaughter continued unabated.

Northgate was Duke Martin’s masterpiece of fortification. The Duke knew that the Fire-Axe was coming for him and so he had dedicated uncountable resources to shoring up this gatehouse over the last winter to be ready for the northern invaders. Its walls were buttressed by
stone masons forced to work through winter nights. Its gates framed in iron by smiths heated only by their forge fires. Its armories stocked with tens of thousands of arrows made by every fletcher in the city.
Only a single bridge crossed the River Briden, here at its deepest and swiftest. This bridge was named for its architect – Sir Falstaff. The locals named the old stone crossing Fallingsbridge almost as a joke since it was so sturdily built. And upon that bridge, for hours upon one
fine spring day, did the armies of Talingarde give their lives for a king already dead.

It is almost shocking how well the men of Talingarde fared in a battle so horrifically stacked against them. They charged the gate house not once but seven times. They managed to push a battering ram up to the gate even under the most intense hail of missile fire imaginable. Even
as boiling oil poured upon their ranks like a black waterfall, they broke the outer gate and swarmed into the gatehouse. Past countless murder-holes and arrow slits they pushed. They broke the inner gate and there they met the frost giant king’s personal guard.

Every giant, ogre and troll who barred their passage died that day. The knights of the Alerion led the final charge that rode down the last of the ogres and even slew the frost giant commander. And just as it seemed this might be the most horrific sort of triumph – The Fire-Axe himself took the field leading his cadre of lieutenants and their personal warbands. And with one charge, every hero left
alive beneath the Northgate died.

The Fire-Axe raised the fallen Standard of St. Theonas that had marched at the armies fore. With his infernal weapon he set it aflame and cried victory loud enough for even hell to hear.

Far away across the field, Vastenus Barca broke a clay seal. His work was done. Tiadora and her furies teleported to his location and slew all that remained of his high command. Tiadora approached General Barca,
covered in the blood of his most trusted subordinates, and bowed.

“Well done, Lord of the Cainite Knot.”

Hope that helps,
Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Scarab Sages Reaper Miniatures

Just grabbed mine over the weekend, and hoping I get to sit down and read it tonight!


@ Generic Villain.

Spoiler:
Regarding the Adarium, the gazetteer piece on Matharyn helps to bring some "oomf" to the palace by placing it in context with the rest of the city. From that viewpoint, Matharyn really is the set-piece and the Adarium is but a portion of that. The villains should have some infiltration and planning to do, within the city as a whole, when they first arrive to properly depants King Marcadian IV as presented in the adventure. That being said, if one were to simply compare texts from 'the isle' to that of the Adarium as presented within the adventure-propper, I could fathom how a bit of lopsidedness could be seen.
In the end I dare not question the dark master's grand plans...I merely run upon the dynamo-cog that powers his fortress.


The Adarium is a very important place in the course of the campaign for several reasons:

Spoiler:

Brigit of the Brijidine and Ara Zandra, powerful outsiders, are there both waiting for the PCs and it's where you get to kill the king.

But almost as important as that in my estimation is the sheer amount of information you learn about your enemy. Within the Adarium the PCs come close to who will be their ultimate enemy in the entire campaign.

Add into that the climactic death of Chargammon and ... well, it's an important place.

I'll grant it lacks the otherworldly weirdness of Eiramanthus isle, however.

If you enjoyed that place, next book we will have the dead ice-elf fairy realm of the linnorm Nithoggr and my take on the Temple of Elemental Evil -- the Agathium.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


I would agree that in terms of weird awesomeness, Chez Eiramanthus takes the palm. The Horn of Abaddon was fun and kind of freaky, but this was just over-the-top-but-I-mean-in-a-good-way.

In fact, both the dragons come out of this pretty well -- Chargammon's place of residence was one of the creepier, more atmospheric lairs I've seen. Some nice descriptive text there, along with a single line that made me LOL. (In the box text on the monster's parenting skills.)

Since I'm currently campaignless, there's no telling when I'll ever get to run this. But I would have one concern in Chargammon's lair:

Spoiler:

I'd be a little concerned about Chargammon's hair-trigger temper. Pretty much every group has at least one wise guy who can't resist making a smart-alecky comment in the middle of a dramatic scene. More generally, players tend to hate being intimidated in-game. So I'd be a bit worried about someone trying to push back against the dragon.

One way to deal with this might be to add some more encounters and wear down the PCs some more. Another, subtler one would be to emphasize Chargammon's alarming trophies. (Which are a great idea, by the way.) If the players see that the dragon has killed an entire platoon of storm giants and has decorated his front door with the skeletons of a couple of mariliths, it should at least make them thoughtful.

Anyway, great work with the dragons generally.

Doug M.


Doug M.,

Hey thanks for the kind words! I'm glad you're enjoying the adventure and the two different dragon lairs.

Spoiler:

About Chargammon's hair trigger, you're probably right. Ultimately, it is up to the GM to decide how close Chargammon is to attacking the PCs. However, I would say by this point the PCs are 13th+ level. They've had Tiadora's warning. Dealing with Chargammon should be terrifying and dangerous.

You can give them a break and have them make a Sense Motive check (with a very easy DC) to sense just how close this elder wyrm is to attacking them. That should emphasize how serious the situation is.

But ultimately, the PCs have to deal carefully with a dragon as old, arrogant and evil as Chargammon. That is the challenge of this encounter.

Hope that helps and thanks for your support and assistance,
Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Reviewed here and at RPGNow.


I read the review, and it's making me want this book more than ever, but I do have one question if it can be answered without completely spoiling everything: just who and what are the three 'concubines' of Eiramanthus the planehopping copper dragon?

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