Pathfinder Adventure Path #114: Black Stars Beckon (Strange Aeons 6 of 6) (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 3 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #114: Black Stars Beckon (Strange Aeons 6 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Death Is Not The End

The Strange Aeons Adventure Path draws to a stunning conclusion! Arriving in the alien metropolis of Carcosa, the adventurers must sever the links that bind it to Golarion. In wandering the parasitic city, the characters navigate frozen elder thing ruins, deal with accursed partygoers in a reflection of an Azlanti city, and encounter a mute musician who can help them find their way through the maddening and monster-infested streets. Can the heroes keep Carcosa from drawing Thrushmoor into its amalgam of stolen cities or do they risk waking the unspeakable nightmare that stirs in the depths of Lake Hali? They must do what it takes to break these links—or Golarion is doomed to greet the King in Yellow.

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path concludes the Strange Aeons Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Black Stars Beckon," a Pathfinder adventure for 15th-level characters, by Jim Groves.
  • Advice and suggestions on how to expand your campaign beyond this Adventure Path's conclusion, including a system to bring your Pathfinder character to a whole other world, by James Jacobs.
  • An unsettling interrogation and a troubling revelation in the Pathfinder's Journal, by Adam Daigle.
  • A bestiary containing a new Great Old One and other loathsome monsters, by Benjamin Bruck, Jim Groves, and James Jacobs.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-919-6

"Black Stars Beckon" 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 (723 kb zip/PDF).

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

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What a letdown

**( )( )( )

Disappointing ending to a disappointing adventure path.

Major issues in this series continue with this installment. Again, the module start off strong with evocative, flavorful encounters upon the party's arrival in Carcosa, but again, as with its predecessors, it falls apart.

However, the highlight of this adventure, as with many installments of this Path, is the absolutely amazing Pathfinder Journal entry by Adam Daigle. Huzzah, good sir.

- Major issues with descriptions matching art: two "pureblood Azlantis" look like completely different ethnicities, Armel is described as being overweight, but is illustrated as quite thin, and with a revolver, despite one not appearing in his description.

- Potentially epic battles are not appropriately foreshadowed and built up, leaving them falling flat.

- The sudden and unnecessary inclusion of firearms into the campaign is jarring and off-putting.

- Not enough of the encounters are directly related to the main plot thread, and instead waste the party's time on errands and sidequests.

- The formulaic nature of these adventure paths is again a weakness, with an over-reliance on violence and battle forced upon the party.

- In what has become a recurring issue for Paizo, creature descriptions do not match illustrations (eg. a creature described as having crimson eyes is illustrated with green; a creature described as having a small mouth has an enormous maw in the illustration).

- Most importantly, the "feel" of the adventure is nothing like you would expect from an elder mythos module. If you aren't going to inject that dynamic and sense into the adventure, why even bother making this path?


Three fantastical diverse locations, but an uninspiring boss fight.

****( )

GOOD:
The artwork is really beautiful and all battle-maps (but the last one) are inspiring, yet easy enough to draw.
The first city location ("ancient Azlant") is ripe with roleplaying opportunities but also has some very cool fights.
The second one (Elder Thing city) has a great "scientific horrific" feel and the third one (Paris) is very flavorful and has a very cool final battle.
The NPC section is solid. The illustrations for Valeros and Seoni as "Call of Cthulhu" characters are great. The "Shrike Worm" from the Bestiary is nice.

BAD:
The arrival in Carcosa is essentially one battle after the other with little reason. I have now read the "continuing the campaign" section for the fourth time and it still fails to excite me, mainly because it stays so vague. "The Watcher in the Bay" seems just like a big monster without any real motivation or connection to Shub-Niggurath. I also can´t imagine a CR 24 beast to remain idly in the Avalon bay for so long.
The "Spirit Essence" mechanic seems unnecessary or at least described too long, i´d rather have had some tips for good introductary CoC adventures for players new to it. I don´t like the "Larva of the Outer Gods" ecology theory. These criticisms are all very subjective of course.

UGLY:
The last fight (the boss battle of the entire campaign) feels unsatisfying, as the main opponents are never met before during the entire campain and they don´t really communicate with the PCs. It is comparable to the end of the "Carrion Crown" AP imo. Also, there is no tactics section for the boss, probably due to limited page count.
The damage of the main weapon of "Armel" (greataxe) is 7 points to low for each attack, as only the normal strenght bonus for strenght 40(+15) is given, but it needs to be 1-1/2 (+22).

All in all a good final chapter to the "Lovecraft campaign", even if the final showdown lacks charismatic villain personality.


Strange but satisfactory ending

****( )


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Paizo Employee Developer

10 people marked this as a favorite.
requiem_in_mortis wrote:

Forget the artwork - I went giddy with excitement when I read that bit about a "mute musician".

PLEASE let Erich Zann actually be an NPC in this AP!

Okay.

Dark Archive

4 people marked this as a favorite.

I laughed when I saw that "mute musician" bit. "The Music of Erich Zann" was the first HP Lovecraft story I ever read so it holds a special place in my heart. Or at least I hope that's what keeps pulsing in my chest. I really don't want to think about the alternatives.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
RuyanVe wrote:

Wouldn't a shantak be too low a CR for this module, though?

Perhaps it isn't a shantak at all. Perhaps it's... hell-wind — titan blur — black wings — Yog-Sothoth save me! THE THREE-LOBED BURNING EYE!

A hunting horror, is what I'm saying. It's eye certainly looks burning.


Or maybe it's a Shantak with levels...


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:
Or maybe it's a Shantak with levels...

Most likely, yes. After all there's a challenge rating 17 shantak in the module "The Moonscar." But the creature on the covers' burning eyes made me think of hunting horrors.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Villain,

Maybe so but I'm sticking with the shantak until proven otherwise.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I find it ironic that, with the Mad Arab, and now Paris, the AP based on works that are all about how insignificant Earth is looks like it's going to be the most Earth-Centric AP yet.


Even though The Big C can shrug off a Destruction An empowered Fireball will still ruin many critters day. That must be why they moved over to Earth, Golorian is too spicy for them.


So is this the actual cover art, right off the bat?


Troodos wrote:
I find it ironic that, with the Mad Arab, and now Paris, the AP based on works that are all about how insignificant Earth is looks like it's going to be the most Earth-Centric AP yet.

Wait, what? He shows up in the AP?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Neongelion wrote:
Troodos wrote:
I find it ironic that, with the Mad Arab, and now Paris, the AP based on works that are all about how insignificant Earth is looks like it's going to be the most Earth-Centric AP yet.
Wait, what? He shows up in the AP?

Yep.

Sovereign Court

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

It bears mentioning that the AP's plot summary describes him as "the Mad Poet" instead. ^_^


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Troodos wrote:
I find it ironic that, with the Mad Arab, and now Paris, the AP based on works that are all about how insignificant Earth is looks like it's going to be the most Earth-Centric AP yet.

Regarding Paris:

Spoiler:

The PCs go to a "twisted version" of the City of Light, where the Tower of Eiffel is black. Carcosa is full of such warped versions of other locales, including Thrushmoor and (I think?) Azlant.

That said, this AP was pretty much guaranteed to be heavily influenced by Earth, simply because the many contributors to the Cthulhu Mythos set their stories there. Paizo could have easily made R'lyeh a sunken city out in the Obari Ocean, or placed the underworld of K'n-yan anywhere in the Darklands. But they wanted to maintain the fidelity of the source material. And so, Pathfinder's Earth is the same hotbed of eldritch horrors as Lovecraft's Earth. I mean, at least eight of the 20 god-things listed in the Elder Mythos Article from In Search of Sanity can be found there. Can't swing a dead cat there without whacking an Elder God.


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

An article about Golarion's past sounds interesting.

I always have liked the continuing the adventure articles.


I'm interested to see if there's much life left on Earth if there's all these Old Ones sitting on top of it...

Continuing the adventure should be "Hey let's go save this weird blue planet!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dragon78 wrote:

An article about Golarion's past sounds interesting.

I'm guessing it will have a heavy Mythos edge. Right now we know that, at some point long ago, Shub-Niggurath plopped a few million neothelids onto Golarion. That the Kellids of ancient Ustalav were all about the Old Cults. Thassilon liked poking around in Leng and summoning space monsters. And... not a whole lot else, off the top of my head.

Really interested in seeing what other Lovecraftian madness lurks in Golarion's past.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Oops... the article about the "past" of Golarion ended up not being a thing; instead, this one has a double-sized "Continuing the Campaign" section I wrote that includes all sorts of additional Lovecrafty info.


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

Darn, I was looking forward to that article:(


Oh well. Maybe next Adventure Path. I mean after Ironfang is through.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
Oops... the article about the "past" of Golarion ended up not being a thing; instead, this one has a double-sized "Continuing the Campaign" section I wrote that includes all sorts of additional Lovecrafty info.

I'd be interested in that past of Golarion article too.

But continuing the campaign is also useful.

Maybe in a future book like "Mythos Revisited" or "Mythos Bestiary"?


Probably more "The secret history of Golarion that NO ONE wants you to read" Marco.

;)

Dark Archive

Past of the Golarion article sounds like it'd be nice to have in Ruins of Azlant AP since that is all about exploring the ruins of the past right? xD


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:

I'm interested to see if there's much life left on Earth if there's all these Old Ones sitting on top of it...

Continuing the adventure should be "Hey let's go save this weird blue planet!"

One overarching theme in the cosmic horror genre is that Earth is doomed. It's not a matter of if, but when. Right now, however, most of the Elder Gods are either imprisoned in some manner (Cthulhu, Ghatanothoa), seriously hindered by weird rules (Hastur, Ithaqua), or just don't care about our planet in the slightest (Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth). The problem is, at some unspecified future time those first two categories will become free, and just like Fenrir busting his chains, that's the signal for the end times.

Until then though, Earth is pretty safe. I mean except for Nyarlathotep, a completely unfettered and supremely powerful god who has a malignant fascination with humanity, and likes to screw with us all the time. Yeah, besides him we're okay. Theoretically speaking.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Isn't Humankind, at least on Earth, fated to become a Great Old One ?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Raven Black wrote:
Isn't Humankind, at least on Earth, fated to become a Great Old One ?

Eh, getting a bit off topic and I'll probably ramble so:

Ramble:

Not entirely sure what you mean. Like, evolve into Elder Gods ourselves? I am by no means an expert on the Cthulhu Mythos in its entirety, but I've read everything by Lovecraft himself and that's not mentioned. In short, humans are to Great Old Ones (and even hyper-advanced races like mi-go and yithians) what ants are to humans. Mostly, you ignore an ant. If you're a scientist, you could research, study, and experiment on them. An exterminator, or just a guy sick of all the ants coming into his house? It's squish time. But no, in all likelihood you are oblivious to them because they are incidental. You are also as alien to them in thought and emotion as they are to you.

Perhaps, after millions of years of evolution, humans will become something more. Maybe then we'll be worthy of attention - and in all likelihood, immediately regret it and wish we could go back to being ignored.

Again, I can only really speak to Lovecraft's work, and a bit of Chambers' and Derleth's (though I don't like Derleth's take on things at all). There are many authors who have added to the Mythos, and some could certainly have different interpretations.

Wikipedia has a solid description of cosmic horror as a genre.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Generic Villain wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Isn't Humankind, at least on Earth, fated to become a Great Old One ?

Eh, getting a bit off topic and I'll probably ramble so:

** spoiler omitted **

Found the bit I was misremembering. it's from Call of Chtulhu (the short piece) :

"That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."

Sovereign Court

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I always read that passage as referring to humanity's descent into savagery and wickedness.

In any case, I'm not sure that old Castro is a 100% reliable source. ^_^

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Oops... the article about the "past" of Golarion ended up not being a thing; instead, this one has a double-sized "Continuing the Campaign" section I wrote that includes all sorts of additional Lovecrafty info.

Was the Azlanti city cut as well? It's not mentioned at all in the Campaign Outline in Book 1.

Paizo Employee Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.

It's still there.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Raven Black wrote:


Found the bit I was misremembering. it's from Call of Chtulhu (the short piece) :

Another common refrain in Lovecraftian fiction is that the Great Old Ones don't care at all about their mortal worshipers. When the stars are right, everyone becomes food for the gods. You're the high priest of Cthulhu and you just managed to release him from imprisonment? Great job! He eats you first, but still, cool story bro. And honestly it's death if the priest is lucky - there are way worse fates awaiting those foolish few who would court madness. 'I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream' level stuff.


I have seen some writers go a bit too far into the 'Bwahahaha!' area and not in the sense that is the Pulp/Noir type game where you have two-fisted heroes in ripped shirts punching out cultists who wear impractical hats The old BLOOD BROTHERS system had several scenarios using the COC system where people could play in Lost Worlds with Dinos and zombies and it was pretty cool.


So it's confirmed the main big otherworldy threat is the king in yellow?
My players are super generous and letting me make their entire characters, to add to the amnesia and horror element. I'm planning on fully integrating the pc's backstories into the campaign, including one as a traitor who will be at first unaware she's part of the main old one's cult. I may have to wait til all books are out to implement it..


I like the idea of Earth completely falling to the Mythos, and Paris somehow ending up near Carcosa, haunted by its ghostly denizens.

But then, I was also toying with the idea of having Earth become a Dominion of the Black flesh farm by the time of Starfinder, so I dunno.


Neo,

Yeah that does have a certain appeal in some ways towards me running a combo Pathfinder/Starfinder game.

Dark Archive

Delayed from january to february 2017!

Dark Archive

It seems the Great Old One in this volume will be Frank Belknap Long´s Chaugnar Faugn, the Horror from the Hills!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

What makes you say that, Marco? For all we know, we could be getting a different form of Hastur. (Some stories paint him as a Cthulhu-like tentacled horror, and this seems like the perfect volume to stat up the version found in Carcosa itself.)

Dark Archive

Since we are speaking of Lovecraft tropes, couple of my players are annoyed that Cthulhu is CR 30 because according to them he is the Raditz of Cthulhu Mythos :D

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
CorvusMask wrote:
Since we are speaking of Lovecraft tropes, couple of my players are annoyed that Cthulhu is CR 30 because according to them he is the Raditz of Cthulhu Mythos :D

Is Raditz something like Jozik z Bażin?

Dark Archive

Gorbacz wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
Since we are speaking of Lovecraft tropes, couple of my players are annoyed that Cthulhu is CR 30 because according to them he is the Raditz of Cthulhu Mythos :D
Is Raditz something like Jozik z Bażin?

He is a Dragon Ball (its martial arts shonen comedy/battle manga/anime) villain :P

To open it up, he is the main character's evil brother who shows up from space to reveal that they are both aliens. Note that Dragon Ball was up to that point a long running series already so thats pretty out of nowhere. He overwhelms main character to the point he has to join up with previous main villain to beat him and once they (barely) manage to do so, he reveals that he is in fact far weaker than other aliens who are coming after him.

So basically, like Cthulhu, his point of story is to exists to show how universe is far larger than previously thought, they are far weaker than anything else in that larger universe AND they both got defeated by being impaled by something :D

(note that fandom wise, in Dragon Ball Abridged(aka parody redub of the anime) he is basically considered measuring pole of how weak you are)

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm pretty sure 99% of this particular board is unfamiliar with Dragon Ball or their knowledge is limited to "it's about dragon balls and one guy is called Goku". Besides, Cthulhu was never the top dog of Mythos, that's what Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth are for.


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

I know even less then that. I'd just assumed he was a cautionary tale about self checking yourself for testicular cancer.

Is Goku his mother?

Dark Archive

Kalindlara wrote:
What makes you say that, Marco? For all we know, we could be getting a different form of Hastur. (Some stories paint him as a Cthulhu-like tentacled horror, and this seems like the perfect volume to stat up the version found in Carcosa itself.)

Three things actually:

1. It makes no sense imo, because we already have the Bestiary 4 Hastur at CR 29 and so far every book contained a NEW Great Old One we havn´t seen statted before. No matter if the characters are already level 17 or 18 at the end, even a lower CR 25 King in Yellow (there are no lower CR GOOs)would kill them.
One that evolves into an Elder God is well beyond the ability to fight and wouldn´t be statted.

2. The deal with Chaosium allows the statting of creations by Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith, which can only be done in this AP.
Statting up a GOO that could be done elsewhere would be a waste of money and opportunity (and we probably already get a non-Chaosium Great Old One with Xhamen-Dor in book 5).

3. James Jacobs wrote something about statting creations of Long and Smith and if i remember correctly, we didn´t get anything from Long yet.

Of course i could be wrong. ;-)

Dark Archive

Gorbacz wrote:

I'm pretty sure 99% of this particular board is unfamiliar with Dragon Ball or their knowledge is limited to "it's about dragon balls and one guy is called Goku". Besides, Cthulhu was never the top dog of Mythos, that's what Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth are for.

That was the point of comparison though: Cthulhu is lowest in Mythos Hierarchy really, yet he is so popular that he is somehow viable competitor in mythos based games, for example in Cthulhu Wars Cthulhu's faction can take on Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath and Hastur :p They were complaining about him being highest CR monster when there are other great old ones at lower CR since they think Cthulhu shouldn't be able to compete with them.

(Raditz isn't popular, thats not the point, point was that Lovecraft version of Cthulhu is like Radits from story point of view while fandom version of Cthulhu is somehow most important great old one)

Also, just to check, if 99% of the folks here aren't familiar with anime, how can people in the forum constantly complain about things being too anime if they haven't ever watched anime to know what is anime? xD Thats just weird


Marco Massoudi wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
What makes you say that, Marco? For all we know, we could be getting a different form of Hastur. (Some stories paint him as a Cthulhu-like tentacled horror, and this seems like the perfect volume to stat up the version found in Carcosa itself.)

Three things actually:

1. It makes no sense imo, because we already have the Bestiary 4 Hastur at CR 29 and so far every book contained a NEW Great Old One we havn´t seen statted before. No matter if the characters are already level 17 or 18 at the end, even a lower CR 25 King in Yellow (there are no lower CR GOOs)would kill them.
One that evolves into an Elder God is well beyond the ability to fight and wouldn´t be statted.

2. The deal with Chaosium allows the statting of creations by Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith, which can only be done in this AP.
Statting up a GOO that could be done elsewhere would be a waste of money and opportunity (and we probably already get a non-Chaosium Great Old One with Xhamen-Dor in book 5).

3. James Jacobs wrote something about statting creations of Long and Smith and if i remember correctly, we didn´t get anything from Long yet.

Of course i could be wrong. ;-)

James Jacobs also wrote that the GOO that got illustrations in the first volume of the AP (In Research of Sanity) were less likely to be stated in the adventure bestiaries, and The Horror from the Hills was one of the illustrated mythos.

Xhamen-Dor has a rule in the adventure and an article as well, so that's why this wouldn't apply to the Inmost Blot.

I would guess the last GOO will be either Ghatanothoa or Orgesh. I'm hoping for The Faceless God.

But, as you said, I could be wrong. XD

CorvusMask wrote:
Also, just to check, if 99% of the folks here aren't familiar with anime, how can people in the forum constantly complain about things being too anime if they haven't ever watched anime to know what is anime? xD Thats just weird

I'm sure they are talking about the art style, are they not? I used to see people complaining about trolls being "to cartoonish" or "too anime"

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
I would guess the last GOO will be either Ghatanothoa or Orgesh. I'm hoping for The Faceless God..

Very close... but also keep this in mind.

Ghatanothoa has nearly a century of inerta over Orgesh when it comes to waiting for a Pathfinder stat block. He's got seniority, in other words.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

If it is Ghatanothoa... how perfect will the art be? ^_^

Dark Archive

Where is the point in statting up a creature who´s view turns your skin to immobile stone?
I guess you get a (ridiculously high) fortitude save to avoid that, but for me that pretty much kills the appeal of Ghatanothoa.
Having to blindfold or even blind yourself and working with blindfight or blindsense, blindsight etc. would be much more horrifying.

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