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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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Axial wrote:


I should probably stop asking questions now, but

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:

She's mentioned throughout the campaign - mostly the first two adventures. Check the cover of the Thrushmoor Terror for an illustration. Also her return isn't nearly as catastrophic as the other consequences. It's just an additional thing that happens.

Unrelated: this volume's Bestiary finally answers a question I've had for a while. What is the true nature of (the Pathfinder version of) Azatoth's Court? The Daemon Sultan is usually described as being attended by Outer Gods who dance around him. These are, in fact, hyper powerful versions of the CR 15 creature larva of the Outer Gods. A bit complicated and off-topic, but has tons of implications. Need to think on this one a bit.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I just find gangster!Valeros hilariously awesome for some reason :D

Anyway, is it odd that I don't find this ending that bleak? I mean it does comment on players possibly being dismayed by "You just prolonged the inevitable so your actions are inconsequental on cosmic scale" narrative, but I don't really find anything that bleak about it .-. Then again I'm not really the audience for lovecraftian horror, I like aesthetics of it but I never really agreed with the message of whats so scary about it xD

(like, jrpgs do similar "ultimate evil cannot be defeated" thing all the time, only difference being they are much more optimistic/idealistic about it)

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Isabelle Lee wrote:
If I ever, somehow, got my own avatar, that Seoni would probably be the one I'd ask for.

You should, for you are good and shaped like friend and deserve nice things.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Also, why would your Pathfinder campaign get turned into a Call of Cthulhu campaign? It doesn't make sense that level 17-20 living gods with colossal power and world-shaping magic would become feeble, human investigators who don't have any supernatural powers at all, need to use their wits to survive, and are in constant danger of going insane? It's a totally different kind of game!

Did they get de-powered or something?

Dark Archive

Axial wrote:

Also, why would your Pathfinder campaign get turned into a Call of Cthulhu campaign? It doesn't make sense that level 17-20 living gods with colossal power and world-shaping magic would become feeble, human investigators who don't have any supernatural powers at all, need to use their wits to survive, and are in constant danger of going insane? It's a totally different kind of game!

Did they get de-powered or something?

They don't become human investigators. Its something really meta

All I can say is... Spirits man, spirits


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Shub-Niggurath???:
Wait, we got stats for an avatar of Shub-Niggurath? She is an Outer God, right? So... Does that mean that THIS is the Outer God in Bestiary 6?

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Umm, I'm pretty sure you have misunderstood something since gods don't have stats, so bestiary 6 can't have stats for gods.

Also, I'm pretty sure the way cthulhu mythos works, manifestation/avatar/whatever =/= the real thing


yeah basically we just get a manifestation of her avatar via the Wake of the Watcher.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:
yeah basically we just get a manifestation of her avatar via the Wake of the Watcher.

Spoiler:

Yup. And it's not a Great Old One lite either - unique CR 24 big ole' monster. I think flavor-wise it would have been cooler as one of Shub-N's spawn, given her Mother of Monsters theme, but that's just me.

Oh, and speaking of obscure callbacks, does anyone remember a certain Candelmere Tower that showed up all the way back in the second Kingmaker adventure? One with prayers to Yog-Sothoth carved into it? We finally figure out what it's original purpose was. I love that the authors/developers keep these past loose threads in mind, no matter how small.

Sovereign Court

There is the Shub-Niggurath cult guide...here at paizo...


What are a Kudimmu and a Shrike Worm?


GV,

Thanks for the first insight and second, yeah I remember that tower. If I had gotten further, it would been a sweet thing to use as a random encounter.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Wannabe Demon Lord wrote:
What are a Kudimmu and a Shrike Worm?

The Kudimmu:
The kudimmu is a large CR 16 plant, a giant evil tree-thing with interesting undead-related powers. It's loosely inspired by Mesopotamian legend. It's used as an encounter in the module, but would actually make a pretty interesting and unusual boss foe for a group of 12th-13th level PCs.

The Shrike Worm:
Large CR 15 aberrations, the shrike worms are based on the Cambrian creature Hallucigenia, only big and evil. They have a suite of illusion and hallucination related powers, and also will impale you on their back spikes.

I'm less enthusiastic about these guys, if only because I wanted Hallucigenia to evolve into a race of gentle, brilliant poets and philosophers. Surely Anomalocaris is all the Cambrian monster you could ever want!


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Wannabe Demon Lord wrote:
What are a Kudimmu and a Shrike Worm?

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

Jim Groves and I were trying to get every monster in the Bestiary into the adventure (and we would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those meddling Great Old Ones!), and I'm not sure if a gentle race of philosopher poets would have been a great fit. That said, I love the idea. Maybe the ones from Earth were an enlightened offshoot?

PS-Anomalocaris is definitely on my list of creatures to shamefully plagiarize for monster ideas.


Well, that makes sense. When you get to the 5th and 6th volumes of an adventure, the enemy stat blocks start getting pretty long. So, being able to refer to the module's Bestiary could save a page or two of space.

Three words: Anomalocaris... in... spaaaaaaace.

Doug M.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

3 people marked this as a favorite.

It's saves word count, but I also think it's just cool to give folks monsters and see them used in the adventure. I try to do it as much as possible. Ben was an enormous help with the creatures on this adventure. Because he's a friend in real life, he was also second set of eyes on some of the NPC stat blocks.


CorvusMask wrote:
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Umm, I'm pretty sure you have misunderstood something since gods don't have stats, so bestiary 6 can't have stats for gods.

Also, I'm pretty sure the way cthulhu mythos works, manifestation/avatar/whatever =/= the real thing

How come you didn't known we are getting stats for an Outer God on B6? Although, as you said, it is just a "not as powerful" avatar (but strong enough to rank among the CR 26-30 creatures), it is also the first time we are fighting the manifestation of a real god since Serpents Skull AP.

[edit] Since Iron Gods ;)

As Nyarlathotep is the one with a thousand forms, it's most probably that he will be the one.


Does anyone have a link to information on the Mesopotamian legend the Kudimmu originates from? I can't seem to find anything on Google.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Wannabe Demon Lord wrote:
Does anyone have a link to information on the Mesopotamian legend the Kudimmu originates from? I can't seem to find anything on Google.

It's not a direct adaptation of an folkloric existing creature, but rather based on this idea, as described in wikipedia:

"Salting the earth, or sowing with salt, is the ritual of spreading salt on conquered cities to symbolize a curse on their re-inhabitation.[1][2] It originated as a symbolic practice in the ancient Near East and became a well-established folkloric motif in the Middle Ages.[3] Although concentrated salt is considered toxic to most food crops and despite the proximity of many conquered cities to bodies of saltwater, there is no evidence to show that any conquering nation ever applied sufficient amounts of salt to render large tracts of land unusable"


Thanks MMCJawa.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Umm, I'm pretty sure you have misunderstood something since gods don't have stats, so bestiary 6 can't have stats for gods.

Also, I'm pretty sure the way cthulhu mythos works, manifestation/avatar/whatever =/= the real thing

How come you didn't known we are getting stats for an Outer God on B6? Although, as you said, it is just a "not as powerful" avatar (but strong enough to rank among the CR 26-30 creatures), it is also the first time we are fighting the manifestation of a real god since Serpents Skull AP.

[edit] Since Iron Gods ;)

As Nyarlathotep is the one with a thousand forms, it's most probably that he will be the one.

I guessed that it was an avatar of Nyarly. Director Dinosaur (aka James) said the idea was on the right track, but wrong.


Fallen,

Mmm. So we might get stats for the Black Pharaoh then is what you're suggesting?

Paizo Employee Developer

11 people marked this as a favorite.

Full on gods don't have stats.

It hath been decreed that those who offer five domains shall have no statistics, for they can be killed only by the power of narrative.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

So let it be written, so let it be done. Daigle is sent by the Chosen One.


Thomas Seitz wrote:
So let it be written, so let it be done. Daigle is sent by the Chosen One.

or he's one of the MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP!

Sovereign Court

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So let it be written, so let it be done. Daigle is sent by the Chosen One.
or he's one of the MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP!

But definitely not a veiled master.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Adam Daigle wrote:

Full on gods don't have stats.

It hath been decreed that those who offer five domains shall have no statistics, for they can be killed only by the power of narrative.

I dunno... "five" seems like a statistic to me. :]


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Kalindlara wrote:
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So let it be written, so let it be done. Daigle is sent by the Chosen One.
or he's one of the MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP!
But definitely not a veiled master.

Yessssss


1 person marked this as a favorite.

So, I was looking through my copies of books one through five of this path, and I realized, this has been one of the most well-rounded bestiaries I've seen. and we were only missing 3 creature types.

on another note, how do you guys get your copies so fast? I have to wait another 11 days to see all of that Carcosa-ish goodness.

Paizo Employee Developer

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Subscribers receive free PDFs as soon as their package ships from our warehouse (and they receive a discount on other products from our site). Subscriptions usually start going out one to two weeks prior to the street date, so subscribers can check out the digital copy while they're waiting for the mail and shipping services to do their thing.

Scarab Sages

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

The art in this book is incredible. Flapper!Seoni is amazing. Gangster!Valeros is sublime. The Leng Ghoul Gendarme is beautiful. The picture of The Iconic Oracle and investigator (whose names escape me just this second) running from a Shoggoth is great too. And that Star Seed image is Horrifying. The Kidimmu is the most menacing grape tree I've ever seen (also the only grape tree because usually grapes grow on vines). The Larva of the Outer Gods looks really cool. And the Shrike Worm is incredibly well named with its penchant for impaling. It definitely looks like something that would impale everything it sees (or you know, doesn't see, given the image and stat-block).


Strat,

Alahazra is the oracle. Quinn is the Investigator.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So let it be written, so let it be done. Daigle is sent by the Chosen One.
or he's one of the MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP!

That's because Paizo is a Great One spelt P'Izo. Paizocon is really a cover operation for when the cult meets.


So, in this one, your PCs have a chance to end up in 1920's Paris? Must be difficult for any non-human PCs, though I'd love an illustration of Lem courting Josephine Baker. Really, I need to read up on just what historical (and fictional) figures were on the loose in 1920's Paris. Sigh, guess I gotta get this one.

And a question for anyone who looked at Ghatanothoa's stat block -- do they give him a power to duplicate his in-story ability to turn you into a petrified mummy upon so much as looking at him?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Eric Hinkle wrote:
So, in this one, your PCs have a chance to end up in 1920's Paris? Must be difficult for any non-human PCs, though I'd love an illustration of Lem courting Josephine Baker. Really, I need to read up on just what historical (and fictional) figures were on the loose in 1920's Paris. Sigh, guess I gotta get this one.

Did you ever see the TV show Once Upon a Time? On that show, non-humans were transformed into humans while they were in the Land Without Magic. I would imagine that a similar solution could work here. I think this adventure (in the "Continuing the Campaign" section) involves rebuilding the characters using Call of Cthulhu rules anyway.


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

Eric,

Paris:
Your PCs do not get the chance to visit 1920s Paris. They get to visit a gloomy Paris like place, but there's no feeling of the '20s there, at least to me. The continuing the campaign article has a 'You should play Call of Cthulhu' section with a mechanic for a link to your old PCs, but no 17th level Pathfinder types lose on the Left Bank.

Ghatanothoa:
Yes!

Dark Archive

Eric Hinkle wrote:

So, in this one, your PCs have a chance to end up in 1920's Paris? Must be difficult for any non-human PCs, though I'd love an illustration of Lem courting Josephine Baker. Really, I need to read up on just what historical (and fictional) figures were on the loose in 1920's Paris. Sigh, guess I gotta get this one.

And a question for anyone who looked at Ghatanothoa's stat block -- do they give him a power to duplicate his in-story ability to turn you into a petrified mummy upon so much as looking at him?

They don't end up in "real" Paris though.

The place...:
has leng ghouls for citizens

And to answer that

Spoiler:
Yes. That is how its version of Unshakable Presence works

Edit: Dang it, got ninja'd here? D: First time over here

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

The Purity of Violence wrote:

Eric,

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
It's definitely closer to Belle Epoque/late 1890s Paris than 1920's Paris. I think there's even a sidebar connecting the cabaret location in the adventure to some real-world analogs from that time period.

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

Benchak,

Spoiler:
I totally agree with your line of thinking. I was going to add my thoughts of say 1895-1905, but decided the setting is actually quite timeless. At least one of the real-world analogs didn't close until 1950. I like the cabaret references; I was expecting the Grand Guignol.


Everyone who answered my questions, thank you.


Generic Villain wrote:


Oh, and speaking of obscure callbacks, does anyone remember a certain Candelmere Tower that showed up all the way back in the second Kingmaker adventure? One with prayers to Yog-Sothoth carved into it? We finally figure out what it's original purpose was. I love that the authors/developers keep these past loose threads in mind, no matter how small.

Seeing as how that was one of my favorite bits from that AP, what was its purpose?

For that matter, just which Great Old Ones besides Ghatanothoa were sttated up in this AP?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Eric Hinkle wrote:
Generic Villain wrote:


Oh, and speaking of obscure callbacks, does anyone remember a certain Candelmere Tower that showed up all the way back in the second Kingmaker adventure? One with prayers to Yog-Sothoth carved into it? We finally figure out what it's original purpose was. I love that the authors/developers keep these past loose threads in mind, no matter how small.

Seeing as how that was one of my favorite bits from that AP, what was its purpose?

For that matter, just which Great Old Ones besides Ghatanothoa were sttated up in this AP?

The whole Candlemere/Yog-Sothoth element for that adventure was basically nothing more than a Lovecraft easter egg I threw in. I don't THINK it was an element that Rob wrote into the adventure... I'm pretty sure it was just me goofing around and wanting to have a tiny little bit of Lovecraft in there... but ALSO to determine how folks would react to having a tiny little dollop of HPL in an otherwise non-HPL adventure. That, plus folks' reacitons to the larger HPL elements that appeared in Runelords and Crimson Throne are all puzzle pieces that, when put together, resulted in us being able to do the Strange Aeons Adventure Path, and to putting Cthulhu in and on a Bestiary.

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