Pathfinder Adventure Path #134: It Came from Hollow Mountain (Return of the Runelords 2 of 6)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #134: It Came from Hollow Mountain (Return of the Runelords 2 of 6)

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Hollow Mountain has loomed over the horizon of the Varisian Gulf for as long as those waters have been sailed, frightening sailors and tempting adventurers with its promises of treasure and terror alike. Having restored order to the town of Roderic's Cove, the region's newest heroes must deliver a powerful item south to the city of Magnimar, but they soon find that fate is leading them to one of the land's most infamous dungeons. What awaits these heroes in the trap-filled and monster-haunted corridors and chambers below Hollow Mountain will put them to the test, but if they can survive, they will emerge with knowledge vital to standing against the runelords' return!

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path continues the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path and includes:

  • "It Came from Hollow Mountain," a Pathfinder adventure for 5th-level characters, by Mike Shel.
  • Details on the empyreal lord Ashava, patron of dancers and lost souls, by Jason Keeley.
  • An exploration of the violent and hideous monsters known collectively as sinspawn, by Patchen Mortimer.
  • A bestiary of monsters, including the malevolent choking shade, the lumbering arachnid masterminds known as shriezyx queens, and the demigoddess Ashava herself, by Jason Keeley, Mark Moreland, and Mike Shel.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-070-5

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

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Better than Roderic's Cove

3/5

This is a better adventure than Secrets of Roderic's Cove. Plot and NPC characterizations/motivations make much more sense, and much more attention is paid to detail. Maps are fine and a regional map listing key locations is blessedly provided (unlike in Book 1 of the AP)! Cover art is excellent, and while some interior art is fine, much of it is pretty bad (bugbear assassin, boag-hok, etc.). Things tend to shift from role-playing to combat as the adventure progresses, giving a shifting sense to the module. Personally, I think the strengths of the adventure lie in the first two parts. Other than the rampant gender-activism issues sullying verisimilitude, it's a 4-star adventure.

Part 1: Sailing the Lost Coast

Gets off to a great start with the party sailing from Roderic's Cove to Magnimar. Here the party board the ship for the ride down, get to know their fellow passengers, are beset by a storm, make a stop in Sandpoint, witness an operatic performance, and fend off an attempt to abscond with Baraket. Opportunities for combat exist with this attempted theft as well as when certain dangerous cargo escapes its crate, and when the PCs are in the water assessing damage to the ship's rudder.

This is a juicy section, with flavorful NPCs and many opportunities to roleplay and uncover mystery. Mike Shel does a tremendous job here, and pays exquisite attention to detail (something lacking in Part 1 of the AP), going so far as to reveal the names of and tidbits from various operas and Varisian poetry and songs, as well as making detailed political references.

Unfortunately, this section is marred by Paizo's gender activism and apparent misandry: all the leaders are female, and the only relationship highlighted is a lesbian one. It's curious that, as of the end of this AP, all of the male runelords have been effectively killed off, leaving only the females. Odd, that. How convenient that this falls neatly in line with Paizo's gender-activist narrative. As well, all of the indefinite personal pronouns default to the female, evincing bias and discrimination. (-1 star)

Part 2: The Sihedron Council

In this section, the party meets with the Sihedron Council to hand over Baraket, help remove a haunt, and have quite a night at an inn where they receive a dangerous gift and attempt to survive an assassination attempt.

Mike Shel's excellent writing and NPC characterization continues here, for the most part; the exception being Sheila Heidmarch's dubious acquiescence to allowing the PCs to keep Baraket, if they so choose. A Pathfinder Venture Captain would never allow such a dangerous and valuable artifact to remain in the hands of such as the PCs without taking surreptitious steps to acquire it from them, at the very least.

Part 3: Under the Mountain's Gaze

In this section, the PCs charter a boat to Rivenrake Island, are contacted by Sorshen, and obtain the guidance of a Pathfinder who decided to make his home on the island. They then can come upon a shrine to a dead demon lord and finally fight cultists before entering the Forges of Wrath.

Attention to detail falters in this section, with neither events included for the 4 day trip to the island nor a regional map of the island provided. Not a fan of the dual Kelhuuds, as it seems a bit silly to me and doesn't add anything to the story.

This whole section just becomes a bit muddled. For instance, at the shrine to the deceased demon lord, you not only encounter his iconography, but also that of a deceased runelord of wrath. The Peacock cultists also were here, and nearby are Cultists of Yamasoth. There's just too much. Not enough focus. The dual blood oozes at the demon shrine don't really work for me either.

Part 4: Under Hollow Mountain

Long dungeon delves can be a repetitive slog, and this module does a fairly good job of keeping things interesting in Hollow Mountain, with varied challenges (traps, haunts, corporeal foes, etc.). There is an excellent confrontation with the cultists of the Peacock Spirit, with multiple outcomes possible based on the PC's actions.

The problem with Hollow Mountain in general is that is seems in far too pristine condition to have borne witness to Earthfall. The module handwaves this, attributing it to ancient preservative magic, which keeps things in tip-top shape...except when it doesn't. This results in the "preservative magic" feeling like a plot contrivance, woefully reducing players' sense of immersion.

As a sidenote here, one of the rooms Alaznist designed is intentionally made to look worn-down in order to "...give the room a greater sense of history..." Pathfinder adventure writers would do well to follow her lead.

Simply put, it seems like Earthfall would have done far more damage to this structure, as some of Alaznist's servants here who committed suicide just prior to the catastrophe thought it would.

However, the module has an extremely strong ending, with a flavorful, thematic encounter with the trapped Runelord Thybidos. Well done.

NPC Gallery:

Magga Szuul, Sursha Antefalle, and Viralane Barvisai - all extremely flavorful, interesting, and compelling.

Ashava, The True Spark:

Fine, I guess, if you're interested in Asahava, an Emyreal Lord. A couple new spells, a magical dance, and Obediences are included. Personally, I would have liked to have seen this space used to include more, and better, maps.

Ecology of the Sinspawn:

Again, fine, if you're interested in Sinspawn, who apparently survived Earthfall by...wait for it...going under ground. If only the Runelords had thought of this clever solution instead of what amounted to putting themselves in stasis for 10,000 years. Waste of space for me.

Bestiary:

A couple nice encounters provided here. I found the Slave Ship encounter especially flavorful. As for monsters - Choking Shade (a completely unnecessary new undead), Ashava, Vexenion Qlippoth, Shriezyx Queen (yet another matriarchal species; virtue signalled, Paizo), and the Thassilonian Sentinel.


In for a Penny in for a Pound

4/5

Hollow Mountain lives up to its reputation as a hero devourer, which is perfect for my old-school sensibilies, but may bewilder crowds accustomed to steam rolling through the opposition. Some of the more tedious elements of the dungeon crawl could have ended up on the cutting room floor. Even so, it really picks up in the third act and builds to a satifying ending.


A Huge Let Down

1/5

Very uninspired and well, boring. The first 3 parts are fluff and then you arrive at a basic dungeon filled with mostly undead.

This AP was a huge letdown.


A Great Adventure with Many Different Options

5/5

After learning in the previous adventure that Alaznist may have returned, the PCs find themselves off to the Runelord's old lair of Hollow Mountain to confirm their suspicions. But first, they have numerous new NPCs and challenges to face as they journey to Magnimar.

The first part of this adventure is a voyage by ship with several suspicious characters and a chance for some great problem-solving and role-playing. One of the NPCs, a gregarious diva who mysteriously seems unable to perform on a stage, stands out as particularly interesting with the potential to enrapture and frustrate adventurers as they try to figure her out.

The journey is an interesting stretch of adventure for those who want more than combat and traps, but the meat of this adventure is Hollow Mountain itself. The dungeon contains numerous fascinating monsters and interesting NPC enemies, some of whom can become allies depending on the approach the PCs take. It also has lots of traps and puzzles to challenge the PCs' problem-solving abilities.

The puzzles in particular deserve special note because they serve as interesting challenges without completely shutting down players who aren't particularly talented or interested in that style of exploration. Each puzzle has multiple ways through it, including one where the answer is plainly written (albeit in Thassilonian - somebody read the Player's Guide and took that, right?) right in front of the PCs.

Of course, each solution has its price. If PCs choose to bash their way through a puzzle instead of relying on arcane lore, they face more monsters to battle. If they read the obvious solution in front of them, they face a dangerous creature before going through the rest of the complex. I see these different paths as a good thing - a skill with solving puzzles helps the PCs proceed, but the game doesn't grind to a halt if the PCs can't figure things out right away.

Similarly, the adventure features several foes, including some in the dungeon, who can become allies. It's rare for a dungeon crawl to offer so many solutions, but this adventure can effectively accommodate almost any style of group. You can bash your way through all obstacles, talk your way past multiple foes, make the path easier through puzzle-solving, or take a mixed strategy and still accomplish the same goals at the end.

Overall, It Came From Hollow Mountain is an excellent and well-paced dungeon adventure. None of the encounters feel like repeats or padding, and the PCs have the freedom to proceed through the adventure in whatever way they choose. I hope to see more dungeon adventures that offer the same variety of interesting creatures, compelling NPCs, and depth of options in the future.


Dungeon Escape Room

3/5

As a note, I haven't read the first segment of the AP. I liked the beginning of the AP and enjoyed the voyage and the encounters there. Unlike the previous reviewer, I thought the NPCs were memorable, especially Barsilla and her underling and the NPC the PCs meet on the island. This was where I think the author shines; he would do very well with a hex map of random encounters or one of those multi-city in an AP volume adventures Paizo seems so fond of. Dungeon crawls, not so much.

The dungeon has the feel of an escape room for the most part. There are lots of puzzles. However, I did not like how many of these were executed. As a player, I would be frustrated at guessing at so many of these requiring passwords without obvious clues or solutions. A big detriment in my book. Yes, you can bash your way through them, and I understand this is the dungeon devoted to wrath, but this is a lame solution. It's actually required in a few spots. I felt the author could've benefited from a day of visiting escape rooms before writing this one.

As a plus, many of the encounters have different directions they can go, based on the PCs actions. All in all, underwhelming and potentially frustrating. Unless you are dying to resolve the Runelords Trilogy, I'd skip this one, or pick it up on sale for the voyage to include in a homebrew.


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Scarab Sages Webstore Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Announced for September! Image and description are provisional and subject to change prior to release.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I get so excited whenever the superdungeons from Dungeons of Golarion get new material.


ohhhhhhhh nice

Silver Crusade

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

I love this title for an adventure!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Sweet! I've been waiting for more info on this location for quite some time.


I love the placeholder art too. That's one awesome looking Gug. :)

Also yes, very evocative title.


Dot

Sovereign Court

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

That's an inverted giant, from Lost Kingdoms.

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Hm, I should probably get around to playing Rise of the Runelords at some point.


Kal,

Ah! My bad. Still, it's a nice placeholder monster while we wait for actual covers.

Sovereign Court

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

Easy mistake to make. ^_^

It's not like they've appeared more than twice...

Contributor

9 people marked this as a favorite.

I loves me some dungeons!

It remains to be seen what the cruel and clever James Jacobs will do to my turnover, but what I sent in is packed with nasty, dungeon-crawling badness. I took my lead from the excellent article on Hollow Mountain in Dungeons of Golarion - I can't recall who's responsible for it (Jason Bulmahn, Matthew Goodall, Brandon Hodge, or Anthony Pryor), but it provided a great framework for a multi-level crawl I hope people will love (even if they fail to survive).


Mike Shel wrote:

I loves me some dungeons!

It remains to be seen what the cruel and clever James Jacobs will do to my turnover, but what I sent in is packed with nasty, dungeon-crawling badness. I took my lead from the excellent article on Hollow Mountain in Dungeons of Golarion - I can't recall who's responsible for it (Jason Bulmahn, Matthew Goodall, Brandon Hodge, or Anthony Pryor), but it provided a great framework for a multi-level crawl I hope people will love (even if they fail to survive).

Are you allowed to tell us just how much of the dungeon you used? Considering that the deep levels are basically 15th level plus possibly mythic.

Contributor

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Dark Midian wrote:
Are you allowed to tell us just how much of the dungeon you used? Considering that the deep levels are basically 15th level plus possibly mythic.

Nope!

With that said, since this is chapter 2 of the AP, there are limits, and the levels listed in Dungeons of Golarion were used as a guideline.

Except for my BBEG:

Spoiler:
15/6 mythic necromancer balrog


Mike Shel wrote:
Dark Midian wrote:
Are you allowed to tell us just how much of the dungeon you used? Considering that the deep levels are basically 15th level plus possibly mythic.

Nope!

With that said, since this is chapter 2 of the AP, there are limits, and the levels listed in Dungeons of Golarion were used as a guideline.

Except for my BBEG: ** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Ah, the good old "Hey, you can't fight this thing so the GM expects you to run!" encounters.
Dark Archive

Dark Midian wrote:
Mike Shel wrote:
Dark Midian wrote:
Are you allowed to tell us just how much of the dungeon you used? Considering that the deep levels are basically 15th level plus possibly mythic.

Nope!

With that said, since this is chapter 2 of the AP, there are limits, and the levels listed in Dungeons of Golarion were used as a guideline.

Except for my BBEG: ** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

I had to pull my friend around and say "you do know it is ok to run every now and then" His characters would die a lot.

Liberty's Edge

Mike Shel wrote:
Dark Midian wrote:
Are you allowed to tell us just how much of the dungeon you used? Considering that the deep levels are basically 15th level plus possibly mythic.

Nope!

With that said, since this is chapter 2 of the AP, there are limits, and the levels listed in Dungeons of Golarion were used as a guideline.

Except for my BBEG: ** spoiler omitted **

So I can cast "reboot" on this boss, too? :P

You don't scare me anymore, mister!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I’m generally not one to get excited by dungeon crawls. But if Mike Shel’s writing it... :)


*is a fan of dungeon crawls, ESPECIALLY when it's Hollow Mountain*


love the inverted giant on the temporary cover


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

I cancelled my Pathfinder AP subscription recently ... and I just might need to re-subscribe.

Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Mike Shel wrote:
I took my lead from the excellent article on Hollow Mountain in Dungeons of Golarion - I can't recall who's responsible for it (Jason Bulmahn, Matthew Goodall, Brandon Hodge, or Anthony Pryor), but it provided a great framework for a multi-level crawl I hope people will love (even if they fail to survive).

The talented Matt Goodall wrote the chapter on Hollow Mountain in Dungeons of Golarion. Thanks for those nasty hooks you planted there, Matt!


So Mike, does that mean there's lots of qlippoth in this book?

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So Mike, does that mean there's lots of qlippoth in this book?

Define "lots." ; )

But I'll leave you with a name: Vexenion...


Mike,

I love the sound of that name. ;) As for "define lots" More than two but less than a hundred?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:

Mike,

I love the sound of that name. ;) As for "define lots" More than two but less than a hundred?

Yeah when you get to one hundred, your into "whole whack" territory...

:)


2 people marked this as a favorite.

no, no, no, we need more high stakes campaigns, bring on the ravening horde of 800 Qlippoth plus obligatory Qlippoth Lord Cameo. I mean, it is still okay to occasionally run from a fight, isn't it?

Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:

Mike,

I love the sound of that name. ;) As for "define lots" More than two but less than a hundred?

More than one, less than 100. Truth be told, it's mostly just a bunch of cranky CR 1/2 kobolds armed with clubs. Nothing to worry about.

Of course, you never know what James Jacobs will do during development...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

10 people marked this as a favorite.

I do like qlippoth. A lot.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

YAY! :) *cheers on the ravaging hordes of unknownable terrors from the deepest of the Outer Rifts*


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Qlippoth-possessed Tucker's Kobolds? Nasty.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Looking forward to this AP!

Shouldn't there be a question mark at the end of the description? :)

Sovereign Court

In Wrath's Shadow http://paizo.com/products/btpy8r0c, one of my favorite PFS scenarios is also near Hollow Mountain and from Mike Shel too... Any relation?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Kanebaenre wrote:

In Wrath's Shadow http://paizo.com/products/btpy8r0c, one of my favorite PFS scenarios is also near Hollow Mountain and from Mike Shel too... Any relation?

Not intentionally, no.


I'm pretty sure any relation was unintentional other than EVERYONE goes to Hollow Mountain...eventually. ;)

Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
Kanebaenre wrote:

In Wrath's Shadow http://paizo.com/products/btpy8r0c, one of my favorite PFS scenarios is also near Hollow Mountain and from Mike Shel too... Any relation?

Not intentionally, no.

Other than they're both potential deathtraps, no.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Mike Shel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Kanebaenre wrote:

In Wrath's Shadow http://paizo.com/products/btpy8r0c, one of my favorite PFS scenarios is also near Hollow Mountain and from Mike Shel too... Any relation?

Not intentionally, no.
Other than they're both potential deathtraps, no.

That's more of a Mike thing than a Hollow Mountain thing though. :-P


Aw. I thought Hollow Mountain WAS a Mike thing. ;)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Does the Pathfinder Comics Hollow Mountain arc spoil anything? Or alternatively, perhaps the events in the comics are presumed to be general knowledge (at least by PFS members)?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Tusk the Half-Orc wrote:
Does the Pathfinder Comics Hollow Mountain arc spoil anything? Or alternatively, perhaps the events in the comics are presumed to be general knowledge (at least by PFS members)?

No more so than we've already spoiled things by titling the Adventure Path "Return of the Runelords."

Web Product Manager

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Updated with final product description and cover image!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Oh hey Krune! Looking very dapper, this must be his formal wear as opposed to his pajamas in The Waking Rune. Dragon-tooth longspear looks nice too.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Sweet scene; Daji looks pretty spooked!

*gasp* Ashava! <3


The background art looks good but the art style of the guy upfront doesn't seem to match the rest.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Dragon78 wrote:
The background art looks good but the art style of the guy upfront doesn't seem to match the rest.

I think it's rare when they actually do match.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Dragon78 wrote:
The background art looks good but the art style of the guy upfront doesn't seem to match the rest.

It's the same artist, so I'm not sure what to say there, other than that I think that they look great together.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Krune looks rather dapper, there. I wouldn't have thought the Runelord of Sloth would put that much effort into his appearance. :D

Dark Archive

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Krune looks rather dapper, there. I wouldn't have thought the Runelord of Sloth would put that much effort into his appearance. :D

Gotta look fabulous while lounging about all day.


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

Ok whomever is doing the cover art for this ap is insanly talented


3 people marked this as a favorite.
ratcatbo wrote:
Ok whomever is doing the cover art for this ap is insanly talented

That would be Ekaterina Burmak

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