The city of Kintargo has long been a safe haven for artists, freethinkers, and those marginalized by the oppressive Chelish government, but now the city has been placed under martial law by inquisitor Barzillai Thrune. When a protest turns into a riot, a new group of heroes comes together to form an organized resistance against the devil-binding government and the church of Asmodeus—but can they survive long enough to establish allies? Or will they become the latest victims of the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune?
After a delightfully flavorful opening scene, this book delivers on one of the central promises of this AP almost immediately by making the players take charge of creating a revolution. Every step of the way, I felt like our characters were making progress towards building our resistance in ways that made sense considering our strength and influence. The challenges are varied and good, and the characters are memorable. There's also a satisfying minor villain that is set up at the beginning and dealt with at the end, making this book have an ending that feels significant, but not too much for a book 1.
As a side note, Hell's Rebels is an AP about rebelling against repressive authority SHOULD have girl (and trans) power, so idk what the hells people were expecting. Anyone who disagrees is free to go find people that agree with them more in hell's vengeance (and is also free to stay the hells away from me).
This is a solid start to an adventure path. It does a good job of gathering together PCs from different backgrounds and making them invested in accomplishing the objectives of the adventure path. The villains are remember-able and easy to hate and the plot does a good job of encouraging the players to go to places and do things, but doesn’t make them feel railroaded. The only reason I am not giving this book five stars is because some of the fights were unfair for lower level PCs and because the NPC backgrounds that were provided seemed to not-sych with the main plot and sometimes directly contradict the main plot’s themes (see spoilers for more information). This adventure path will go downhill in future books (see my review of other books for more details), but this book is solid and a good start.
There are three problematic fights in this book. The first fight in the book gets harder and harder until the PCs flee, which is an interesting idea, but since the adventure path makes it clear that running is abandoning innocent people to arrest there is a serious change of one or more PC continuing to fight until they are arrested or even killed in the first fight. Later there is a fight with a flying sorceress that can cast scorching ray, and not only is it hard for low level characters to do serious damage to a flying creature, but if one of them gets high by a scorching ray critical, they will likely die. The final boss fight has a creature that has regeneration 5 that is overcome only by holy damage. She will run if damaged enough, but it is almost impossible for low lever PCs to do holy damage which makes a hard fight almost impossible.
This adventure path provides stat blocks for notable NPCs and includes character backgrounds for them. The problem is that these backgrounds feel like they were written by a completely different person. The kind Halfling baker has the background of a hedonist with a voracious sexual appetite. The everyman who was thrust into this rebellion by chance has the background of a being an absolute saint who wants to save the world and who needs regular expensive alchemical items to prevent from turning back into a woman (an obvious transsexual analogy … which doesn’t work in a world with multiple relatively cheap magic items that permanently change people’s sex). This is a problem that is going to continue and get worse in the books to come.
*DISCLAIMER*: This is a single review for all adventures in this AP.
Hell’s Rebels is the best Paizo Adventure Path. Of all the AP, it is the one that’s most coherent, approachable and GM-friendly. This review applies to all 6 books because their quality and style are so consistent that you don’t even notice the fact that they were written by 6 different authors.
Let me quickly list some of the most important things which Hell’s Rebels gets right:
1. It has a clear, believable and complex plot which goes from point A to point B to point C while at the same time allowing for multitude of side treks, optional quests and player-driven initiatives.
2. It goes full on Golarion. It touches upon core themes of the setting and is heavily nested in its history. It provides the much-anticipated opportunity to punch one of the biggest evils of the setting in the face. One warning: you can’t just lift HR and drop it into other settings without massive amounts of work.
3. The BBEG is front and center, introduced in adventure 1, encountered and fought against several times across the campaign. He’s evil, callous, quirky, nasty, brutal, amoral and good at being bad. He’s right up there with Ileosa from CotCT.
4. The campaign starts in one city and mostly stays there, with some small side-treks and one bigger detour which, fortunately, is also urban.
5. There is a cadre of sympathetic, recurring allied NPCs to play second fiddles to the PCs. There are also enemies whom you can interact in ways other than roll for initiative. The RP opportunities are plenty.
6. The cast of both allies and opponents is diverse in every sense of that word.
7. The players get opportunity to discover some of the setting’s secrets and, to a limited yet satisfying degree, reshape it without causing a Realm-Shattering Event.
8. The ending is epic to the core and fitting for a campaign of this scale and magnitude.
9. Episode 4 is a special issue with extra page count, longer adventure, more support material, an excellent article on Aroden and much, much more!
10. I love the blue colour theme for this AP AND Wayne Reynolds did the cover art. Double victory!
My first review on Paizo. I felt as I needed to for this path. The path is, overall, my favorite that I've read. On a personal level I classify it as the 'BEST' path for me as a DM. On to In Hell's Bright Shadow...
Points of Praise
- Interesting Villains (Use mint at your peril!)
- Interesting NPCS in General (Venseldek and Rexus are both beloved by my party)
- The confined setting (that continues throughout the path for the most part) allows the ability to give your PCs very deep story based roots.
- The sections laying out the city of Kintargo and the major players there give a lot of ground for those roots to dig into.
- The beginning can be clunky (something I didn't notice until my group started). Either find a way to get them together when the shoe drops or be sure that they know each other previously. It goes without saying but I'll stress, "Make sure they want to start a revolution!"
- The game plays out over weeks so be on the look out for players who build crafting munchkin characters and maybe try and steer them away from it.
- Stress silver weapons. The campaign trait of the Kintargo Nobility can get you a good silver 2 hander.
- Flesh out the weeks with personal story elements to give the passage of time weight.
Not my favorite book in the path but still a 5. I'm pretty sure book 3 or 4 are easily my favorites.
I just came by to mention this as well. Looks like there aren't any sanctioned APs after Giantslayer, and yet, I remember grabbing the file for Hell's Rebels awhile back. Did they come down for revision or something? Or did a link break and nobody's noticed for three months?