Pathfinder Adventure Path #82: Secrets of the Sphinx (Mummy’s Mask 4 of 6) (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 9 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #82: Secrets of the Sphinx (Mummy’s Mask 4 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 4: "Secrets of the Sphinx"
By Amber Scott

Forgotten No More

Deep in the Osirian desert stands the blank-faced monument known as the Sightless Sphinx. In search of the stolen mummy of Chisisek, the architect of the flying tomb of the Sky Pharaoh Hakotep I, the heroes track the cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh to its secret headquarters inside the sphinx. There they must face monstrous mercenaries and servants of the demon lord Areshkagal before finally confronting the masked cultists and their leader, the Forgotten Pharaoh, who has been possessed by a fragment of Hakotep’s soul.

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

  • "Secrets of the Sphinx,” a Pathfinder adventure for 10th-level characters, by Amber E. Scott.
  • An exploration of the sinister world of curses, by Russ Taylor.
  • Two exciting additional encounters in Osirion’s wastes, by Greg A. Vaughan.
  • Reptilian rage and unexpected rescue in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Amber E. Scott.
  • Five new monsters to challenge player characters, by Michael Kortes, David Schwartz, and Larry Wilhelm.

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: 978-1-60125-591-4

Secrets of the Sphinx 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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***½( ) (based on 9 ratings)

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Drags if run as written

**( )( )( )

It's been said somewhere that Mummy's Mask was planned out as three two-volume arcs rather than six individual adventures, for pacing purposes, but my opinion and that of my group is that somehow things didn't go according to plan.

This volume picks up after the player characters clear out a tomb and are in pursuit of a cult that's taken something. But there's no trail to follow, there is merely the second half of a desert hexcrawl that began in the previous module, and the only clue is that the cultists are hiding out in the northern half of the hexgrid page in the Player's Guide.

And running that hexcrawl as written, with the group checking each space, figuring out search patterns, just kills the momentum dead. Even if you're not running random encounters, the adventure is less about the chase and more about tediously filling in the map until you find something interesting. And while there are a couple of potentially interesting encounters to be had, roleplaying and otherwise, they're all predicated on your group choosing a path that finds them. As written there are no hints, no trails, nothing to break up the monotony.

And this becomes a problem, because without some of those roleplaying encounters the dungeon just becomes a series of rooms filled with enemies. The dungeon that makes up the last third of the volume is massive -- the map of the main level takes up almost a whole page of the volume at "1 square = 10 feet" scale (which means it won't fit on any reasonably-sized mat, and you're going to have to redraw at least a few rooms because halfway through you realized you screwed up the scale). There are two different factions jockeying for position within that dungeon, but unless you took the 'right' path and found certain encounters in the desert, there's no context for one of the factions. There's just, inexplicably, another group of cultists who don't like the other one. One encounter, unless the group would have the context, is nonsensical as written because it assumes the characters are familiar with the NPC's associates. The only option is to ignore all that story and turn him into a more talkative 'fights until dead' cultist.

My group got halfway through the dungeon, but between the hexcrawl and dungeon fatigue they were ready to just turn all of the macguffins they have over to NPCs and walk away. My players, openly dreading the possibility that the next two volumes of the AP would be more of the same, have decided they'd rather play something else on our Pathfinder night.

The first two volumes of the AP go well together, because they get you invested in the city of Wati, and uncovering new layers of the necropolis makes for interesting exploration and keeps things fresh. The third volume, while a little all over the place in spots, at least has some flavorful mini-dungeon libraries. But unless you just happen to take the right route to find all of the interesting roleplaying encounters, this one is just bland desert and rooms full of nameless bad guys to kill. Maybe if the first half were a little more directed and linear, that would have helped keep the momentum up, but my players rapidly lost interest in continuing the adventure path.


Let down by one major flaw

**( )( )( )

As others have said, this one is divided into two major parts.

The first part is a serviceable hexcrawl that takes place in the Nothern part of the Parched Dunes area the PCs started exploring the previous book. The goal, essentially, is to find the dungeon that is part two. This part is not particularly good or bad. The encounters are a bit ho-hum for the most part. I rewrote or discarded most of them to suit my group. There are also some optional encounters in the book that can be dropped in here and are more fleshed out and interesting.

The adventure falls flat on its face when you get to part two and the dungeon. The dungeon itself is not bad and has some fun,if occasionally excessively deadly, encounters. Where it falls down is the scale. It has a huge map done entirely on a 1 square=10' scale. Since the Pathfinder rules are written for 1 square=5', the map is actually 4 times as big as it first appears. The largest size Crystal Caste mat was not large enough for a small subsection of the map. I had to use a second, smaller mat to draw all of the rooms. This was less than a fifth of the dungeon. This map is just a huge pain to deal with. You either have to draw one part and lock the players in there or constantly draw, erase and redraw as the rooms they enter exceed the space available on your mat. The combination of a large map and the 1 square=10' scale makes things cumbersome and slow. The map is such a headache that I seriously considered just skipping the last part of the book entirely, cutting to the last fight, giving out the treasure from the dungeon, jumping the characters to level 13 and going straight to book 5 rather than hassling with it.


**( )( )( )

GM's perspective:

This from the GM's side of things is a rather boring chapter in the campaign. It starts too sandbox and then becomes a series of short encounters followed by an overly large and dull dungeon exploration.
Some encounters are just way too tough even for characters of the appropriate level. Some fights are just not suitably balanced.

I was a little disappointed considering how well the whole adventure path started off.


Very good mix of exploration and grind

****( )

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.

Pros:
I love the hex crawl part of the adventure. I'm always fond of areas of a prepublished adventure where I have the freedom to add or subtract from whats given as I see fit. So in the first part of the game I had a lot of fun with the landscape.

I enjoyed that the NPCs were well flushed out with clear motivations and ambitions

I though the way the BBEG of the book was extremely well handled and does an excellent job of setting up things to come. It also was an area that allowed me to play around and add bits in for backstory.

Cons:

I am never a big fan of massive dungeons and that is exactly what the Sightless Sphinx is. It has several factions working against each other and to me felt a bit crowded. Perhaps if some bits of it had been moved to a desert mini dungeon I would have found that more to my liking.

The maps are just too bland. There are rooms that describe blood stains yet you wouldn't get a sense of that from looking at the map. Beds are simply boxes upon the maps. Really disappointing as I would hope that with a good number of people playing either online or printing these out there would be more attention paid to making the maps reflect how interesting the environment is.

Overall assessment: I really enjoyed this book. Some of the encounters were very tough, others easy which is a good combination. There is room for your characters to breathe and explore though the Sphinx, as fitting to the grammar of the AP setting is, was just a bit too long.


Excellent Dungeon-Crawl

****( )

In Secrets of the Sphinx, part 4 of the Mummy's Mask, Amber Scott gives us more desert hex-crawling in the first half of the adventure and a large dungeon-crawl in the second half.

Likes
1) Magic Items: The Bronze Sentinel is by far my favorite magic item in the first four volumes of this AP. Lots of cool scenes come to mind when I imagine the PCs making use of it and it is keyed into some of the areas of the Sightless Sphinx. Overall, I liked most of the new magic items described in this adventure better than the ones in earlier chapters of Mummy's Mask.

2) The Sightless Sphinx: The large dungeon that makes up the second half of the adventure is the highlight of the adventure. It's a well-constructed dungeon-crawl that can be approached in a number of ways, offers opportunities for role-playing and allows the PCs actions in one area of the dungeon to impact things in a different area. Also, not every room needs to be explored in order to complete the adventure, which I think is really good thing when dealing with a large dungeon.

3) Moving Encounters: The Sightless Sphinx also features a few different groups of enemies that move around in the dungeon and which can be sprung on the PCs when the game slows down too much.

4) Scrying Chambers: Another cool feature of the Sightless Sphinx is that several rooms of the dungeon complex are linked by magic scrying statues that allow characters to spy into other rooms that contain similar statues. This is a really nice touch and opens up some interesting possibilities for a group of PCs going through the dungeon to strategize about how they want to approach different sections of the dungeon.

5) Hex-Crawl links: Some encounters in the Sightless Sphinx can be affected by how much exploration the group did before entering the dungeon and who or what they have with them (e.g. the gynosphinx from the previous adventure or the Bronze Sentinel found in the desert). In my opinion this elevated the overall quality of the Hex-Crawl in part 1.

Dislikes
1) Desert Hex-Crawl: As with the previous adventure, I found most of the encounters in the hex-crawl in Part 1 to be not to my liking. I'm not a fan of encounters that feature one interesting feature that happens to be protected by a random monster and this adventure features several of them: A dead body protected by a Baykok (see below), a river protected by Stymphalidies (see below), a boulder field protected by a blue dragon and a clay golem. This last encounter with the neurotic blue dragon seemed somewhat ridiculous to me. Here's a dragon that would rather risk death than take the chance of harming his work of art. Couldn't he just rebuild it after he destroys the PCs? Anyway, not my cup of tea but the encounter can easily be cut or changed without impacting the rest of the adventure.

2) The genie fortress quest at the end of the Desert Hex-Crawl felt sort of tacked on and I fail to see the motivation that the PCs would have to clear it out in the first place. After all, the genies have not done anything against the PCs and the Maftets offer them very little apart from the location of the Sightless Sphinx. In fact, it would likely be quicker in game terms for the PCs to just find the Sightless Sphinx on their own through hex-crawling.

3) Weird/random monster overload: It's nice to have some fantastical elements in an adventure, but in my opinion there were just too many weird monsters and NPCs in this adventure, most of which I had never even heard of: Girtablilus, Maftets, Baykoks, Stymphalidies, etc… Girtablilus and Maftets probably make up close to a third of the encounters in this adventure and I would have a difficult time portraying them competently due to my lack of familiarity with these monstrous humanoids.

Other Comments
The encounters provided in The Perilous Wastes article by Greg A. Vaughan are great and can be easily inserted in the Desert Hex-Crawling part of the adventure. In fact, I liked the two mapped encounters presented in this article better than any of the other Hex-Crawl encounters described in the main adventure.

Overall Impression
I found the first half of this adventure to be somewhat disappointing, but the dungeon-crawl in the second part is really cool and even manages to elevate the first part of the adventure by its design. I think that Secrets of the Sphinx is the best installment of Mummy's Mask that I've read so far. If I could I would rate it as 3.5 stars, but since I can't I'll give it 4 stars.


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Webstore Gninja Minion

Announced! Product image is a mockup and subject to change.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ancient curses, hopefully a few spells and enchantments we could use ourselves in that section along with plot devices. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Ancient curses, interesting.


I'm very excited to see Amber Scott is doing this adventure. She did a great job with the Worldwound Incursion,so I cant wait to see what she does here!


Wait, she's writing the Pathfinder journal and the adventure? Huh, has that happened before?

Paizo Employee Developer

Yep. She's doing this one adventure and the whole Journal. I can't recall if an adventure author has written a single Journal while writing and adventure, but this is the first time someone writing the whole Journal also wrote an adventure.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Wow! Nice job Amber Scott!

Silver Crusade

I have seen that creature on the placeholding cover in another paizo product but I cannot remember what it is......


samerandomhero wrote:
I have seen that creature on the placeholding cover in another paizo product but I cannot remember what it is......

She's a maftet. That particular one is from the last adventure in Reign of Winter.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

From what I've heard and seen, this is going to be another awesome Amber adventure:)


Richard Pett wrote:
another awesome Amber adventure:)

(Trademark pending)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

So, did anyone else catch that Paizo is apparently bringing back a version of the old sidequest plug-ins that got dropped after Legacy of Fire? What's the story there?

Paizo Employee Developer

It's just an article I wanted to try out. We actually did one of these back in Shattered Star, so I wanted to put another one in here. I like to test out new article ideas and see how they are received. I wouldn't say we are bringing back the side treks in any real sense.

Lantern Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4

Excited to see this one! I really can't wait for this AP to start, but this book, especially, has me eager!

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks everyone, this adventure was SO fun to write (and I think you'll like the journal too!)


Quote:
two additional desert locales to expand the Mummy’s Mask campaign

What does this mean?

1: Two monsters?
2: Two humanoid locales and two monsters?
3: Two desert locales + 4 monsters?

Otherwise Girtablilu + Sphinxes, i'm in!

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Gancanagh wrote:
Quote:
two additional desert locales to expand the Mummy’s Mask campaign

What does this mean?

1: Two monsters?
2: Two humanoid locales and two monsters?
3: Two desert locales + 4 monsters?

Otherwise Girtablilu + Sphinxes, i'm in!

It means "like the article 'Missions in Magnimar' in Pathfinder AP #63," from what James Jacobs has mentioned elsewhere, I think.

Paizo Employee Developer

logic_poet wrote:
Gancanagh wrote:
Quote:
two additional desert locales to expand the Mummy’s Mask campaign

What does this mean?

1: Two monsters?
2: Two humanoid locales and two monsters?
3: Two desert locales + 4 monsters?

Otherwise Girtablilu + Sphinxes, i'm in!

It means "like the article 'Missions in Magnimar' in Pathfinder AP #63," from what James Jacobs has mentioned elsewhere, I think.

Correct. This article will be the same format as that one. It is independent of the monsters in the AP bestiary.

Webstore Gninja Minion

Cover image and description updated!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Looking good! Judging from the girtablilu, wonder if there will be a visit to the Oszogon Spire?

Also, Areshkagal sounds fun! Maybe a demonic servant in the bestiary?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Demon cult = Demons, sorry Dragon78 but there is a strong possibility.

Paizo Employee Digital Products Assistant

Removed some posts. This kind of discussion should probably go in it's own thread, rather that the product discussion. Thanks!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Why was my post from earlier deleted?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dragon78 wrote:
Why was my post from earlier deleted?

While I do agree your comment was relevant, it was written out in a manner that would start a whole discussion that should be in its own thread. That's probably why it was deleted.

But then again I'm not on the staff.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

"Walk like an Egyptian..."

I can't get that Bangles song out my head.

Grand Lodge

Better than the Frozen soundtrack

&*#&$*&**#$ kids!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
mach1.9pants wrote:

Better than the Frozen soundtrack

&*#&$*&**#$ kids!

"let it go, let it go."


Can't wait for this book! Hurry!

HOpe to find another cool bunch of monsters here! Mummy's Mask bestiaries are really full of awesome monsters!


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

its good to see Greg get some work at least (i imagine going to med school is quite expensive, so he might not have had a choice:)


Why is this not in my hot little hands yet? Need!

Paizo Employee Developer

captain yesterday wrote:
its good to see Greg get some work at least (i imagine going to med school is quite expensive, so he might not have had a choice:)

Since he had to break his adventure writing streak, I've made it my goal to have him write at least something in each AP going forward. So far so good!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

It is not my hands yet, but one day it will be:)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ha! you guys have a funny idea about what constitutes early june. i can assure you the 25th is NOT early june!

i'm just teasing, delays happen:)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I have noticed when they have a release date of "early" that the date is around the mid 20's. I do find that an interesting interpretation of early:)

Webstore Gninja Minion

captain yesterday wrote:

Ha! you guys have a funny idea about what constitutes early june. i can assure you the 25th is NOT early june!

i'm just teasing, delays happen:)

The date listed is the retail release date. The "early June" release date is applicable for those who subscribe or preorder on Paizo.com.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

that makes sense:) i really was just teasing:)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Well that explains that one then.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I can't wait to see what monsters will be in this one.


More interesting than the partially clothed woman with the heavy Pharaoh helm is that manscorpions (and womenscorpions lol) are confirmed.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Looking forward to seeing a retake on the canisphinx! :D

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