Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves (Mummy’s Mask 2 of 6) (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves (Mummy’s Mask 2 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 2: "Empty Graves"
By Crystal Frasier

Following the opening of its necropolis, the city of Wati is overrun by hordes of the unquiet dead. The heroes must once more brave the abandoned streets and dusty tombs of Wati’s necropolis in search of the powerful artifact called the Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh, as well as the necromancer who is using it to create the undead uprising. But mysterious masked cultists also seek the artifact so they can bring a pharaoh from the ancient past back to life. Can the heroes defeat the evil necromancer and return the deceased to their graves, or will Wati truly become a city of the dead?

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path continues the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Empty Graves,” a Pathfinder adventure for 4th-level characters, by Crystal Frasier.
  • A double-sized article that peers into the gods and faiths of Ancient Osirion, by Rob McCreary.
  • A terror-filled night in a family tomb in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Amber E. Scott.
  • Four desert-dwelling monsters, by Crystal Frasier, Thurston Hillman, and Will McCardell.

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: 978-1-60125-589-1

Empty Graves 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 (595 KB zip/PDF).

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

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Ghoulishly good adventure

****( )

I will start by saying I approach whats written in the AP books are a framework by which I add or subtract bits here and there and shift them around to fit the backgrounds of my player characters. I ran it for a group of 6 PCs online. As such, I'll approach this review with a pros and cons framework.

PRO:
The idea of an undead outbreak throughout the city is a very fun premise. And the encounters written for this are loose enough that you can use what you like and add more with ease. I think I ended up using most of their ideas.
Many of the encounters in the outbreak could be resolved by non-combat means.
The Adventure starts with a scene that can give the PCs a chance to go to a party and interact with a variety of NPCs.
The Necropolis is an interesting setting once the adventure moves there. This adventure allows the PCs to investigate a variety of spots in and around it.
The idea of ghoul drug dealers was brilliant!

CONS:
The final fight proved deadly and almost led to a TPK.
The use of red herrings can cause a lot of confusion among the group. Also the politics within the Church of Pharasma doesn't seem to be particularly well flushed out. I felt like I was missing something important there.

So far Mummy's Mask has been a delight.


Empty Graves

**( )( )( )

After running the exceptional book 1 this was unfortunately a bit of a let down for me. I found it too much of a sand box with a scattering of potential encounters for the GM to use. I'd have much more enjoyed something a kin to how the first book played out with a set plotline and consecutive locations.

However, following it's completion my players said they really enjoyed it because there was a lot more role-play opportunities among both the human NPC's and monster encounters that they could diplomacy or talk their way through.


Decent but ultimately unexciting

***( )( )

As is clear from the title of my previous review I was not impressed by The Half-Dead City. However, being a fan of Egyptian-themed adventures, I thought I would see what the rest of the AP had to offer.

Likes
1) It's a nicely laid out urban sandbox that showcases the different locales of the city of Wati in an organic way.
2) "Save the city and solve the mystery of the undead plague before it's too late" is a cool premise for an adventure (but, as mentioned below, there are potential issues related to this hook in this particular adventure path).
3) The set-up of the opening scene at the auction and the event that signals the start of the undead plague is done in a memorable and dramatic fashion
4) This adventure provides more opportunities than most for resolving conflicts in a non-violent way. I'm especially intrigued by the possibility of the PCs talking their way through the final encounter of part 1.
5) I was pleasantly surprised by the encounter of the crystal dragon in part 2. The fact that she can serve as "a sort of shopkeeper in the heart of the Necropolis" is the icing on the cake. Very creative!
6) I also liked the inclusion of the crypt thing in the final dungeon crawl, as its teleporting burst ability really adds some unpredictability to the dungeon and has the potential to spice things up quite a bit by splitting the party.

Dislikes
1) Awkward Transition: In part 1 the PCs are supposed to be tomb raiders who are more or less in it for themselves. In part 2 they are all of a sudden expected to save the city from hordes of undead. A PC whose personality and motivation works well in part 1 will not necessarily fit in well in part 2. If the PCs actions in part 1 had somehow triggered an ancient curse that unleashed the undead horde upon Wati, it would make sense that they would feel responsible for what's going on and would want to take action. As it is though, there's no justification given that works with the assumed PC motivations in part 1.

2) Challenging Issues: This adventure seems to be under the illusion that a group of six to eight CR 1/2 enemies is able to challenge a group of 4th to 7th level adventurers. Take for instance the first combat encounter which features a horde of six Zombies, all CR 1/2 (EL 4) followed 6 rounds later by another six CR 1/2 creatures (EL 4) and then 10 rounds later by a CR 5 undead creature. Now do you really think that six zombies are going to last 6 rounds and then another six CR 1/2 undead creatures are going to last another 4 rounds against a group of 4th level PCs? By the time that CR 5 creature shows up the PCs will not even have broken a sweat and may have been waiting around for a few rounds doing nothing. Things get even worse if the group features a cleric who could potentially destroy six CR 1/2 undead creatures in one standard action by channeling energy.

And that's not the end of it, consider the following three stand-alone encounters:
page 14 - eight CR 1/2 creatures
page 16 - six CR 1/2 zombies
page 19 - one CR 3 undead with four CR 1/2 undead
This is not going to challenge a group of four 4th level players.

In fact, this challenge issue seems to be present throughout the adventure:
-In part 1 of the adventure, where the characters are assumed to be level 4, not counting the Psychopomp duel which is optional (see below), I count a total of only two enemies with a CR greater than 4.
-In part 2, where the PCs are assumed to be level 5, not counting the good dragon and a neutral NPC, I count only three enemies with a CR greater than 5.
-In part 3, where the PCs are assumed to be level 6, I count only three enemies with a CR greater than 6.

3) Psychopomp Duel: One of the Events in the adventure has the PCs battling a monster for the sole benefit of convincing one NPC that it's worth giving the PCs a chance to save his miserable city. I'm not a fan of this encounter and from the perspective of the PCs, I imagine it might come across like a big waste of time and resources.

4) Red Herrings: The adventure introduces a lot of red herrings as the players attempt to find the source of the undead uprising. I think there are too many red herrings and not enough real clues to what is actually going on and that players will get frustrated feel like they are running in circles. I think a good mystery adventure needs to have the players feel like they are making progress on solving the mystery most of the time and throw in a red herring once in a while, not the other way around.

Overall Impression

Despite my concerns above, I can tell that a lot of effort went into writing this adventure and I do like it more than I did the previous adventure. Unfortunately, while there is a lot to like, at no point while I was reading Empty Graves did I feel excited enough to want to run it so I can't give it more than three stars.


Review

*****

Empty Graves is a very exciting, very intriguing game. The characters have to defeat the rising tide of panic in the city, while unravelling the mystery of who is actually behind it at the same time. A colorful cast of characters and monsters - there is even a dragon, when we came so early across a dragon in the overall campaign we were surprised to say the least - rounds up the game and improves it further. Curiously, most of our opponents were mentioned in the Wati gazeteer in the THDC - it isn't good or bad in itself, I just wanted to mention it...


Empty Graves

****( )

Empty Graves was a good adventure. The Mummy’s Mask Campaign really picks up on a better start then where it did with the previous adventure.

The main mission continues as the PCs still search for the Mummy’s Mask; a plus as this is a continuation from the previous adventure, and I enjoy any quest or goal that is set up in one adventure and doesn’t get paid off until later in the AP. However all around things have gone awry as undead are rising and the PCs must try and keep the panic level low (a city wide mechanic that is a lot of fun), through multiple side quests (including red herrings once they get into the necropolis). I really enjoyed the politics of psychopomps vs. undead as the psychopomps are summoned to deal with the undead however their indifference toward the living doesn’t help keep panic down. The whole city is open the PCs and they can go any which way, searching for the mask without care for the people, they can pick and choose who to help and who not to help, or help everyone they see. Along the same vein they can explore every place along the way or just dissect the problem and head straight for the end goal.

Over all Empty Graves, I think has lots of options for player choice (high priority), fun encounters, and the final pay off to the set up from the previous chapter. Only four stars because I have super high standards and this one, while a lot of fun, still doesn't have that little something extra, story wise, to make it miraculous.

Although, the Egyptian Gods Pantheon makes this a must buy, just for that.


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Webstore Gninja Minion

Announced! Cover image is a mockup.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

WE'RE NOT WORTHY!

Dark Archive

You're not worthy, Bagsy! We, the Chelaxians and Faithful of Asmodeus, are worthy!


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber

Speak for yourself, Old Windbag, I'm entirely worthy.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Awesome! I can't wait to see how Crystal kicks up another notch!

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yay, Crystal!


Sounds epic, once again!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Product description wrote:
But a group of mysterious masked cultists also seeks the artifact to bring a pharaoh from the ancient past back to life.

Ohoho! Could this mysterious cult be

Spoiler:
The Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye?
My tinfoil hat points to "Yes"!

Looking forward to AP soooooo much.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

So far everything is looking good for a 1920's pulp adventure set in Egypt.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

gonna leave this here for egyptian themed class here


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

GODS!!!!

Dark Archive

Kajehase wrote:
Speak for yourself, Old Windbag, I'm entirely worthy.

No, you're definitely not; you're just a savage and a heathen from the Land of the Linnorm Kings!


10 people marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path #79 description wrote:
In Wati, the half city, the church of Pharasma holds a lottery allowing explorers to delve the tombs of the city’s vast necropolis in search of the nation’s lost glories.
Me : "That seems like a terrible idea."
Adventure Path #80 description wrote:
Following the opening of its necropolis, the city of Wati is overrun by hordes of the unquiet dead.

Yep, I was right ...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Wow, how did I miss this one yesterday.

The Exchange

Wonderful.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Reptilian wrote:
Me : "That seems like a terrible idea."

Ironically the Ruby Prince, Khemet III, implemented this policy six years ago and he doesn't have your objection on file. ;-D

I say that in jest, but that is accurate to the timeline in the Inner Sea Guide. Wati was something of a hold out, draw whatever conclusions you may from that.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber
Asgetrion wrote:
Kajehase wrote:
Speak for yourself, Old Windbag, I'm entirely worthy.
No, you're definitely not; you're just a savage and a heathen from the Land of the Linnorm Kings!

You don't really think we're bothered by what bald devil-kissing dwarves think, do you?

...maybe we've left Vyre unlooted for too long.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

and it just keeps sounding better and better! ALL HAIL EMPRESS CRYSTAL FRASIER!!

The Exchange

I am curious. Why spend 2 parts of the AP in the same city? Is Wati really that big? Do the players focus more on the living part of the city than the dead?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Staying in a relatively focused area in an AP is a good thing.

Travel APs suck. The less travel, the better. (Yes, there are some exceptions, blah blah blah... Savage Tide and uh... uh... [not Kingmaker, since I consider that 'focused in one area']... still thinking...)


I like travel actually. So far I'm enjoying the 3rd book of Jade Regent. WotR also has some good travelling sequences. But I also like adventures that stay in one spot for a couple of adventures.

The Exchange

Well, there is travel in the same country like Carrion Crown which isn't so bad. Then there is...well Jade Regent and Serpents Skull.

I'm down with somethin glike Shattered Star where they run back and forth over west and central Varisa.

Just curious. One CITY seems a lot, but I guess it could be like Crimson Throne.


agnelcow wrote:
Product description wrote:
But a group of mysterious masked cultists also seeks the artifact to bring a pharaoh from the ancient past back to life.

Ohoho! Could this mysterious cult be ** spoiler omitted ** My tinfoil hat points to "Yes"!

Looking forward to AP soooooo much.

I really doubt, or at least hope, that it is not them. My guess is a cult of the Ancient Osirion gods - considering their worship is being brought back in this campaign, it makes more sense than the guys you said, who are more interested in other things than bringing back the dead. In fact, these very same people OPPOSE a cult of necromancers in their home nation.

Still, I do hope the Order makes an appearance.. just not as the mask-wearing necromantic cultists. I would be greatly disappointed if that were the case.

Also.. why does this have so many similarities to my Road to Damnation campaign?! Masked Cultists, rival adventuring parties, ancient tombs.. ancient artifacts.. stop stealing my ideas!

Just kidding, carry on.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Arnwyn wrote:

Staying in a relatively focused area in an AP is a good thing.

Travel APs suck. The less travel, the better. (Yes, there are some exceptions, blah blah blah... Savage Tide and uh... uh... [not Kingmaker, since I consider that 'focused in one area']... still thinking...)

Jade Regent is a good travel AP.

The travel APs that don't work are the ones that try to get the players to connect heavily with a place before the plot train takes them from that place to either never return, or return after the place has been busted up by bad guys.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:

Staying in a relatively focused area in an AP is a good thing.

Travel APs suck. The less travel, the better. (Yes, there are some exceptions, blah blah blah... Savage Tide and uh... uh... [not Kingmaker, since I consider that 'focused in one area']... still thinking...)

Jade Regent is a good travel AP.

The travel APs that don't work are the ones that try to get the players to connect heavily with a place before the plot train takes them from that place to either never return, or return after the place has been busted up by bad guys.

I actually like the latter (Curse of the Crimson Throne) as a player. Has this "Prodigal Son Returns to Save the Day" feel to it. It's like when Simba comes back to pride rock after Scar has screwed everything over. But, as a player, I don't mind sometimes where things go to s@*& and we have to retreat and regroup. I think it adds some good drama to the game and for me, it's fun and victory is all the more sweet when you come back in and save the town.

However, I'll agree with the first one. That was a huge issue with Second Darkness.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Odraude wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:

Staying in a relatively focused area in an AP is a good thing.

Travel APs suck. The less travel, the better. (Yes, there are some exceptions, blah blah blah... Savage Tide and uh... uh... [not Kingmaker, since I consider that 'focused in one area']... still thinking...)

Jade Regent is a good travel AP.

The travel APs that don't work are the ones that try to get the players to connect heavily with a place before the plot train takes them from that place to either never return, or return after the place has been busted up by bad guys.

I actually like the latter (Curse of the Crimson Throne) as a player. Has this "Prodigal Son Returns to Save the Day" feel to it. It's like when Simba comes back to pride rock after Scar has screwed everything over. But, as a player, I don't mind sometimes where things go to s&+! and we have to retreat and regroup. I think it adds some good drama to the game and for me, it's fun and victory is all the more sweet when you come back in and save the town.

However, I'll agree with the first one. That was a huge issue with Second Darkness.

I like Curse of the Crimson Throne as well, but if I had my druthers I would remove Skeletons of Scarwall (even though it's a stronger adventure than A History of Ashes), because two books is just too long a time to be gone from the city.

uh... /end tangent.

In any case I'm glad that this AP will be a bit more focused on a single area/region.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
I like Curse of the Crimson Throne as well, but if I had my druthers I would remove Skeletons of Scarwall (even though it's a stronger adventure than A History of Ashes), because two books is just too long a time to be gone from the city.

I've considered relocating Scarwall into/near Korvosa for similar reasons.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

So, uh... anyone else super stoked to read about the gods of ancient Osirion?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I am also really interested in the gods of ancient Osirion.


Yes, I too am interested in the ancient Osirion gods! I wonder how many we'll get in the gazeteer.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yep! Very interested -slowpoke.jpg-

I wondered if they're tied to any of the major deities worshiped there, or just prefer the Osiriani people (or combination of both)! :3

Grand Lodge

That is one scary sphinx face in the background of the cover mock up!

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Congrats to Crystal...really looking forward to reading this one.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Filby Pott wrote:
So, uh... anyone else super stoked to read about the gods of ancient Osirion?

I can't help wondering whether they will be legitimate sources of worship for PCs - i.e., would it be worth waiting until we have this information to begin play, in case a player wants to make a cleric, paladin, inquisitor or warpriest of one of these gods?

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

5 people marked this as a favorite.

The Osirian gods can be worshiped by PCs - they are full gods, but they have a more regional focus, and so are not as popular as the core 20 gods. In addition, the AP assumes that these gods are most likely not worshiped by the PCs - most references to the Osirian gods in the AP, in tombs and ruins, point to their past worship. However, there are people in modern-day Osirion who still worship those gods, and a PC could also worship them. As to whether to wait to start the AP until this volume is out, that's up to you, and whether you think your players would be interested in being a cleric of one of the gods.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Rob McCreary wrote:
The Osirian gods can be worshiped by PCs - they are full gods, but they have a more regional focus, and so are not as popular as the core 20 gods. In addition, the AP assumes that these gods are most likely not worshiped by the PCs - most references to the Osirian gods in the AP, in tombs and ruins, point to their past worship. However, there are people in modern-day Osirion who still worship those gods, and a PC could also worship them. As to whether to wait to start the AP until this volume is out, that's up to you, and whether you think your players would be interested in being a cleric of one of the gods.

Perfect - it was a bit of head-canon of mine that some deities might prefer to be worshipped by a certain region/people than the larger deities. :3


how many The Osirian gods will be detailed

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

5 people marked this as a favorite.

There are 20 gods detailed for Ancient Osirion, but like the core 20 Pathfinder gods, these are just the major ones, so there are likely others as well (just not in this article).


When will the cover be updated?


Soon

Shadow Lodge

Just curious. I can't seem to find which deity gets an article in this one. Or is the Egyptian one replacing that? :(

Scarab Sages

Sounds like the Egyptian pantheon is replacing the standard deity article, which I'm fine with; we're getting 20 instead of one and that's ok. Besides, we're going to get enough of the other deities in Inner Sea Gods.


Rob McCreary wrote:
The Osirian gods can be worshiped by PCs - they are full gods, but they have a more regional focus, and so are not as popular as the core 20 gods. In addition, the AP assumes that these gods are most likely not worshiped by the PCs - most references to the Osirian gods in the AP, in tombs and ruins, point to their past worship. However, there are people in modern-day Osirion who still worship those gods, and a PC could also worship them. As to whether to wait to start the AP until this volume is out, that's up to you, and whether you think your players would be interested in being a cleric of one of the gods.

I am SO going to play a Paladin of Ra it isn't even funny.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
DM Beckett wrote:
Just curious. I can't seem to find which deity gets an article in this one. Or is the Egyptian one replacing that? :(

The 'New Deity article in the second & fourth issue of the AP' Cycle pretty much ended when we got all of the 'core 20' Deity articles done. Now we get them when we get them, which is when it is applicable to the AP in question. In RoW, we got Milani in the second issue, yes; but we got Suzurial in the fifth. WotR, we didn't get one until the third issue & that was a philosophy not an actual deity (Green Faith), we also got a faith article for Baphomet in the fifth...

Which is kind of ironic, given that there is a definite possibly even if not a likelyhood of the PC's permanently slaying him.


Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:


Which is kind of ironic, given that there is a definite possibly even if not a likelyhood of the PC's permanently slaying him.

It does make sense if you want to use him as a villain outside WoTR. He is, after all, a demon lord and master of secret societies. Sounds like good BBEG material to me.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Cover Update?

.......................How about now?


I hope to see a lot of alive-creatures roaming between the humanoid dead ones in this one.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Will the religious magic items from the original Osirian Land of Pharaohs book be stated out and updated?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

What is it about these magic items that need an update?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

They refer to the worship of Wadjet and Apep as LN and CN respectively, when more updated volumes have them as LG and CE. how would they interact with their NG and NE worshipers? and how are they in relations to the rod of the python (NG) and the rod of the viper(NE)?

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