Pathfinder Adventure Path #91: Battle of Bloodmarch Hill (Giantslayer 1 of 6) (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #91: Battle of Bloodmarch Hill (Giantslayer 1 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Enemy at the Gates!

The Giantslayer Adventure Path begins! In the human town of Trunau, a beleaguered settlement surrounded by the brutal orcs of the Hold of Belkzen, the heroes must investigate a mysterious death. Before they uncover the truth, however, Trunau comes under attack by an orc army, and the heroes must help defend it—only to discover that the situation is worse than anyone realizes. For even the fearsome orc raid is just a distraction allowing a giant chieftain to recover the relics of an ancient giant hero from a tomb long forgotten beneath the town.

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path begins the Giantslayer Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Battle of Bloodmarch Hill," a Pathfinder adventure for 1st-level characters, by Patrick Renie.
  • A collection of lore on the behavior of giants, Golarion's largest humanoids, by David Schwartz.
  • A giant bag of feats, spells, equipment, and other rules tailored specifically for giants, by Stephen Radney-MacFarland.
  • An unfortunate gnome's encounter with an ogre family in the Pathfinder's Journal, by Richard Pett.
  • A pack of dangerous monsters, by Tyler Beck, Adam Daigle, and Patrick Renie.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-725-3

"Battle of Bloodmarch Hill" 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 (1.1 MB zip/PDF).

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

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The Battle for Bloodmarch Review

3/5

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

I've written reviews for several adventure paths and modules now. This one unfortunately may be the first one where I have criticisms that amount to more than just nitpicks. A general summary of my opinion of this adventure would be that it thematically worked well. However, the balance and the pacing were off enough to be noticeable for the players and for me to have to be very careful as the GM.

First I will start with the positive aspects of the adventure. I liked the setting for this adventure a lot. There is a lot of information that the GM is given for Trunua that really fleshes out their culture in ways that were easy to portray to the players. The general ride or die attitude of the Trunuans was able to lead to interesting RP encounters between PCs whose backstory had them raised in Trunua and those who had just recently arrived. The story also felt well put together. The hook was designed to get the players invested and everything felt like it flowed naturally. Finally, the author did a good job designing fluff for encounters so that they would be memorable where they might not have been otherwise. For example, the final act is almost nothing but back to back fights with orcs. However, the way the scenes are described stops them from feeling too repetitive.

Now for the negative aspects. By far the biggest problem with this adventure is the difficulty level. The players I ran this for tend to be fairly invested in their characters and prefer games to that are not high lethality. However, this book almost seems designed to kill players. Despite leveling the party early for act III and desperately pulling punches in a few places, I nearly TPKed the group three times and I did end up killing a PC with the final boss. There are two places in this book that have the potential to be extremely lethal.

The first is the assassins that attack the PCs in the middle of the night. If this encounter is run word for word and the perception penalties for sleeping are applied as per the rules, this is almost guaranteed to kill your entire party before they can even act. I made this fight a lot easier by automatically waking up the highest roller, giving them a chance to warn the others, removing the enemy's poison and having the assassins avoid killing blows probably to an almost implausible degree considering they were...well...assassins. The PCs still barely made it out alive.

The second deadly area pretty much the entirety of acts III and IV. There are around 17 encounters between these two acts combined. Most of these encounters cannot be avoided and the PCs do not get a chance to recover resources via rest at any point during them. As a positive side note, this did give the battle a real feeling of life and death urgency that is often lacking during tabletop encounters. But it ultimately went too far with this. Towards the end it was clear that the PCs were just slogging their way through, especially the casters who were all out of resources and stuck just slinging at things for several encounters. Honestly, I thought this was a shame, because as I mentioned above in the positives, some of the battle encounters were really well designed. Unfortunately, many of these fights fell short of their potential due to the PCs not having the resources to fight them in equally interesting ways.

A more minor issue I had with this adventure was the pacing. I use story based leveling for my games and the recommended times for leveling all seemed to be at times where the PCs had to deal with something before resting and would therefore not truly be up to the CR of the encounters. The books seems to imply that the opening investigation would take several days (thus the assassin encounter during the night time). However, my group figured everything out quite fast. Likewise, the story implies that the battle happens during the funeral, the night that the players deal with the plague house. Personally, I moved those events to the next days (the PCs have enough to fight through with no rest, without tacking the Plague House at the beginning). But this put me in a precarious situation where the players essentially figured out that the ambush was coming and very nearly got the town on high alert, mitigating the final act. Also story based leveling recommends leveling the PCs to level 3 right before facing the waves at the barricades. For the love of all that is good and kind, don't listen to that advice! I let my PCs reach 3rd level before the battle and gave them a full nights rest to get all their new stuff. I still nearly TPKed the PCs twice during the battle.

There is one other thing that I will note. For a campaign entitled Giantslayer, the opening mission is probably not you would expect. It has very little combat and requires several skills that your giantslaying PCs might not have built for. This isn't a criticism, the murder mystery is actually reasonably well done. However, it is something that gaming groups considering the campaign might want to know.

Overall, this book was still worth playing. The setting and the story are still fun for players looking for this kind of theme in their gaming. Player's who enjoy challenging meat grinder type game would probably love it. However, GMs running this should be cautious and consider modifying the pace and some of the encounters.


Good introduction to the AP with a compelling mystery

4/5

Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

Once the battle begins in Battle of Bloodmarch Hill, the adventure takes on a rather epic quality, which makes it quite an exciting introduction to an adventure path. But even before that, the murder mystery provides a great draw into the world in which Giantslayer takes place. I will admit that, based on just brief descriptions, Giantslayer doesn’t seem the most engaging of adventure paths. However, this first adventure definitely shows how wrong that is. I am looking forward to reading the remaining instalments.


A good start with a few hazards

4/5

This book has a good start for the campaign and I'd probably give some more things to do for the players at the beginning festival to get a better feeling for the NPC:s.

Pros:
- Lots of different encounters and some can be very dangerous
- Trunau is introduced quite well and there's useful information about the city
- Investigation is kinda easy but it's a refreshing start
- The siege shows how chaotic a fight like this could be

CONS:
- A few encounters need some adjustments to not kill the PC:s
- The siege can be brutal and the PC:s need a lot of resources to get through it and after that they should go straight to the final (I recommend that you give some kind of a way for them to gain resources back)


A promising beginning

4/5

This is a good way to begin an adventure path. The light-hearted start gives everyone a chance to feel for Trunau even if not a native. (Side Note: make sure AT LEAST 1, preferably two or three of you players a re natives - in my five person party only one was and it was a struggle to really get the others hooked). Following on is a murder mystery and then an excellent running battle which takes place through the whole town including chances to rescue various NPC's, which gives the whole thing a nice sense of urgency without being an excessively drawn-out combat.

The book ends with a much more standard miniature dungeon crawl which is still fun a flavorsome with some very nice treasure at the end! Consider changing the armor to suit your party best.

Pros: A good AP, lots of different things to do during the adventure.

Cons: Relies on players having an attachment to Trunau - otherwise, none.

Tips: Can be finished very quickly (my group took about two in game days to finish the book) but the story seems to assume at least a week. As a GM be wary of that.
Also - make sure your players are crystal clear about the fate of the final boss and the timing involved, it becomes important in book 2.


Who done the deed or there's war on the doorstep

4/5

A rather interesting start to this campaign. You start off in a murder mystery that seems to depart what appears to be the theme of the game but it is brought around enjoyably to reconnect with the main theme again.

The mystery is an enjoyable one without too many dead ends and confusing twists. One of the better murder starts I’ve seen them do.

The battle that comes next, while yes does sound odd for a murder to lead into a battle but they do it fairly smoothly, is an enjoyable mix of sandbox and scripted events. They manage to keep the size of the area you are working small but it still feels large and imposing with the battles going on around. It also allows players to charge straight ahead or be methodical in their approach.

The end battle is managed nicely leaving a player feeling they are pushed just to the edge of using all their resources but not in emergency mode.

I rather enjoyed this one.

Written from the POV of a player.


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Paizo Employee Creative Director

spectrevk wrote:
It also feels like it's been a while since we've seen Valeros.

I've noticed that too... ;-)


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

$20 Bucks. He's an Iconic for Hells Rebels.


Or else the star of the "Vengeance of Valeros" AP that comes after that. :D

Sczarni

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I just want an enlarged Valeros miniature.

Dark Archive

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

Looking forward to giants and giant accessories!


Any chance subscribers will get their notifications this week?


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

it's usually 10 days prior to the street date, so I don't think you will get the notifications until next week at the earliest.

Silver Crusade

Will this AP have information on gods and for the PRCs that came out from Gods of the Inner Seas?


Yes. Any new gods that are in an AP will from now on have writeups similar to that from inner sea gods. So we get all the deficit obedience stuff on mimderhal and zuurvastal or whatever the fire giant god is.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

The February new releases thread usually has the most up to date information about when authorisation and shipping begins and ends.


Sounds good, sounds old school.

Dark Archive

Today the first suscribers should get this.

Anyone who gets this, i would be interested if the battle with the orcs is round based or if you have to kill a certain number or if you have to achieve certain objectives.

Can the town of Trunau actually fall or not?

Thx


knightnday wrote:
Looking forward to this as well.

Same.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Anyone got this yet?


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

they should be shipping by now. What magic Items are in the Appendix? What is the new Giant equipment?


Are subscribers able to download the PDF yet?


ArchAnjel wrote:
Are subscribers able to download the PDF yet?

Only if they've been charged for the order and it's ready for shipping. Meaning not all subscribers will get it at once.

Dark Archive

appendix magic items:
Ok so the new magic items I am seeing are a face tattoo and true loves locket. The appendix is not the same as before (they do not have a set place for magic items in this one). I will get back to you on the giant gear. The appendix is just the npcs then it jumps into giant stuff

Dark Archive

giant toolbox:
Feats: Awesome throw, Flame Warrior, Frost Warrior, Fortitude of giants, Giants Crush, Giants Smash, Giants Wallop, Greator Awesome blow, Improved Awesome throw, Longshanks, Stone Soul, Storm Soul, Storm Warrior, Will of Giants.

Giant Spells: Beanstalk, Flaming Aura, Frosty Aura, Quick Throwing, Thunderous Footfalls, Thanatotic Fury, Titanic anchoring,

Giant Alchemical Items: Fiery Boulder, Noxious Pig, Tanglefoot bundle.

Giant Magic Items: Boulder Bag, Gauntlets of Catching, Iron Band of the Iron Mind, Magic Beans.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

What are the monsters?

Dark Archive

Bestiary:

Beasts of Belkzen: Mindspin Ram, Skittergoat, and Blackwisp Egret (a bird).
Exoskeleton (undead insects): Giant Cockroach, Giant Stag Beetle, Titan Centipede
Megafauna: Chalicotherium (somewhat a giant sloth), Deinotherium (Weird Elephant), Embolotherium (Blunt headed rhino).

Flood troll.

Dark Archive

Magic Items:

I am finding magic items scattered through the adventure.
The three I found while scanning are Brinya's Love (+1 dagger with other stuff), Uskroth's Armor, and Agrimmosh, the Hammer of Unmaking.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The fact that they don't put the new magic items in the appendix where they used to b is beyond annoying. Hopefully, this is an aberration.

Can I please get a tad bit more info on the feats that specifically deal with throwing rocks
? Awesome throw and the improved version.

Dark Archive

Awesome Throw and Imp:
Awesome throw is a combat maneuver that is pretty much when you throw a big object (e.i. rock) at a smaller creature. It sends the smaller creature flying away 10ft from you. The improved version increases the distance of ho much you can send someone flying depended on your roll and there cmd.


brad2411 wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Thanks!

Dark Archive

Marco Massoudi wrote:

Today the first suscribers should get this.

Anyone who gets this, i would be interested if the battle with the orcs is round based or if you have to kill a certain number or if you have to achieve certain objectives.

Can the town of Trunau actually fall or not?

Thx

Battle for Trunau:
So Scanning through it it seems to be a mix of events and goals. The more you do and better you do the easier the boss fight for the Orc Raid is. But to the town actually being permanently destroyed I did not see them say anything about it but I would say the town would be really bad off but not destroyed.

Little disappointed by the Bestiary... but I can't wait for the actual adventure!

Silver Crusade

Crossing my fingers that the mystery death isn't who I think it is!

But man it would be one heck of a motivator to a lot of half-orc PCs out there.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Does the entire adventure take place in Trunau?

Hopefully my download link will be up by the time I finish work and I can take a look myself. :D


So what about Will of Giants? I assume that it's something to help patch up the notoriously low will saves?

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Tonlim wrote:
So what about Will of Giants? I assume that it's something to help patch up the notoriously low will saves?

In the giants toolbox there is a magic item that helps with it.

spoiler:
Iron ring of the Iron Mind. Gives a +4 to will save/ immune to enchantment spells if giant

Dark Archive

mikeawmids wrote:

Does the entire adventure take place in Trunau?

Hopefully my download link will be up by the time I finish work and I can take a look myself. :D

spoiler:
Yes. A little right out side and then under the town.
Dark Archive

Myth Lord wrote:
Little disappointed by the Bestiary... but I can't wait for the actual adventure!

Actually I liked the bestiary. I liked that they are detailing more of the animals that are specific to golarion. In Belkzen hold of the orc hordes they have more of that to.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mikaze wrote:

Crossing my fingers that the mystery death isn't who I think it is!

But man it would be one heck of a motivator to a lot of half-orc PCs out there.

If she dies, I will bathe this continent in a wash of crimson...


1 person marked this as a favorite.
brad2411 wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Wow, I love all the giant goodies in this. Fun stuff to use against my PCs indeed.

Liberty's Edge

Tonlim wrote:
So what about Will of Giants? I assume that it's something to help patch up the notoriously low will saves?

It's straight-up immunity to enchantment effects that only target humanoids - charm person, hold person, etc... (Charm monster still works)

Silver Crusade

DrSwordopolis wrote:
Tonlim wrote:
So what about Will of Giants? I assume that it's something to help patch up the notoriously low will saves?
It's straight-up immunity to enchantment effects that only target humanoids - charm person, hold person, etc... (Charm monster still works)

chokes on a pistachio

That's....going to be a nasty, nasty surprise for a lot of folks. Man, someone had to have been suppressing some laughter when the idea of hold person specialists bounced around the forums. This is almost up there with the Inner Sea Bestiary's nasty high level spell subversion surprise.

Inner Sea Bestiary spoiler:
Lorthact's ability to join casters during their time stops.

Liberty's Edge

Hell, I was expecting to play an enchantment specialist focusing on controlling Giants. I still probably will, but I'm very happy to see steps being taken to keep giants scary and not able to be dismissed with a level 1 spell.

Regardless of the actual story content of the book, (and from my skimming, it's a pretty good low level adventure) I'm very happy with the "Giant's Toolbox" section - it gives us GMs a ton of options for giants in other games - I'm already modifying parts of an existing Kingmaker game to account for some of the new feats, spells, and items.


Gorbacz wrote:

For the record, Hells Rebels looks cool. Classic Golarion themes, canon heavy, so many loose lore threads to tie up. Also, a ball.

Giantslayer, on the other hands, sounds like a forced effort to placate all those ultra-conservatives who are throwing their arms up because Iron Gods. I fully expect stuff like "this 10 by 20 room has 3d6 frost giants and 1d6 t-rexes".

And I am and will be a vehement enemy of fiction in APs. ;)

I like to think that 'all those ultra-conservatives' have a voice deserving of being heard as well. Also, 3d6 Frost Giants and 1d6 T-rexes would never fit in a 10 by 20 room.

Agree with you on the fiction-filler. Its not hard to find fiction to read - give me more gaming content any day.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Is the removal of the items from the appendix a permanent thing or just for this issue. going to be pretty disapointed if it's a permanent change.

Besides that awesome first part.

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Kevin Mack wrote:

Is the removal of the items from the appendix a permanent thing or just for this issue. going to be pretty disapointed if it's a permanent change.

Besides that awesome first part.

It's a permanent change (for now). Note that new magic items will still appear in most (if not all) AP volumes, it's just that now the adventure itself determines how many new items are in each volume, rather than the space of 2 pages dedicated solely to them.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The necessary new magic items are still called out in their own sidebars, it's just that they now appear where they show up in the adventure. I actually prefer this new way of doing it. Less page flipping.

Way to continue innovating and improving the format, Paizo!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tonlim wrote:

So what about Will of Giants? I assume that it's something to help patch up the notoriously low will saves?

DrSwordopolis wrote:

It's straight-up immunity to enchantment effects that only target humanoids - charm person, hold person, etc... (Charm monster still works)

Nice! That solves the main issue that has been bugging me about giants being moved from their own monster type to a sub-type of Humanoid.

Can anyone tell us what the pre-requisites are for this particular feat?

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Haven't been able to really sit down with the new releases, but I've got to say I love the artwork given to my tied-for-top favorite Trunau NPC from Towns of the Inner Sea. Sara Morninghawk's portrait is perfect for female Shoanti half-orc characters.

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
Mikaze wrote:

Crossing my fingers that the mystery death isn't who I think it is!

But man it would be one heck of a motivator to a lot of half-orc PCs out there.

If she dies, I will bathe this continent in a wash of crimson...

Major Spoiler:
It's not Halgra! :D

Still sad though. :(

Regarding the magic item appendix, I have to admit I really did find that useful. But I had also never considered that it might be leading to a need for a new magic item quota each volume. It's a tough choice, but I think I come down on the side of "more adventure and background/NPC material" over utility. It's a really tough choice though.

(plz never lose the NPC appendix entries though! Those are rock solid!)

Dark Archive

Bellona wrote:
Tonlim wrote:

So what about Will of Giants? I assume that it's something to help patch up the notoriously low will saves?

DrSwordopolis wrote:

It's straight-up immunity to enchantment effects that only target humanoids - charm person, hold person, etc... (Charm monster still works)

Nice! That solves the main issue that has been bugging me about giants being moved from their own monster type to a sub-type of Humanoid.

Can anyone tell us what the pre-requisites are for this particular feat?

Prereqs:
Wis 14, Iron Will, Giant Subtype.

Thought you might like this too.

Iron Band of the Iron Mind:
Magic ring gives +4 on save throws against enchantment spells. When on a Giant it gives them immunity to enchantment that targets only humanoids.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mikaze wrote:
Haven't been able to really sit down with the new releases, but I've got to say I love the artwork given to my tied-for-top favorite Trunau NPC from Towns of the Inner Sea. Sara Morninghawk's portrait is perfect for female Shoanti half-orc characters.

Yep, hence my statement on the Player's Guide thread bemoaning Paizo teasing us with another hot 1/2 Orc NPC, only to have her be in a happy, committed relationship...

Mikaze wrote:
(plz never lose the NPC appendix entries though! Those are rock solid!)

Seconded. I cannot tell you how many times I have read through AP issues predating Jade Regent & wished Paizo had started that before then.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:


Mikaze wrote:
(plz never lose the NPC appendix entries though! Those are rock solid!)
Seconded. I cannot tell you how many times I have read through AP issues predating Jade Regent & wished Paizo had started that before then.

I'll third that. While I've already voiced my support for the magic item change, I would be sorely disappointed if we lost the NPC entries. While the magic items can be seamlessly integrated into the body of the adventure, as has been done here, I don't see that happening with the NPCs, given the word counts.


The Downloaded date (uploaded date?) shows as December 12th, 2014. Shouldn't this be sometime this week? *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tonlim wrote:

So what about Will of Giants? I assume that it's something to help patch up the notoriously low will saves?

DrSwordopolis wrote:

It's straight-up immunity to enchantment effects that only target humanoids - charm person, hold person, etc... (Charm monster still works)

Mikaze wrote:

chokes on a pistachio

That's....going to be a nasty, nasty surprise for a lot of folks. Man, someone had to have been suppressing some laughter when the idea of hold person specialists bounced around the forums. This is almost up there with the Inner Sea Bestiary's nasty high level spell subversion surprise.

** spoiler omitted **

With regard to that spoiler, I seem to remember a feat in 3.x called Spell Stowaway (from Epic Level Handbook). And that the BBEG in a Savage Tide AP campaign (as run by someone at Paizo) used that feat to great intimidation effect by isolating and killing the party wizard during the final battle. :)

Dark Archive

Is this available in stores yet?

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