Starfinder Adventure Path #16: The Blind City (Dawn of Flame 4 of 6)

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Starfinder Adventure Path #16: The Blind City (Dawn of Flame 4 of 6)
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Trapped in the Dark

When the heroes seek an expert to translate an ancient, eldritch tablet, a sinister cult strikes from out of the shadows, intent on destroying the relic and all who know of its existence. After facing off against these zealots and deciphering the tablet, the heroes learn of another deep-sun locale called Ezorod—and the evil elder entity that has focused its attention there. The heroes quickly discover that the tablet is both a map and a key to Ezorod, allowing them to enter and explore this weird and lightless oubliette. There they will encounter ghastly creatures and uncover sophisticated technology that could advance sun-diving by light-years. But even if the PCs manage to escape the deadly solar dungeon, they'll be forced to wonder about the malevolent being they have unleashed upon the galaxy—even as they receive a mysterious message heralding a future confrontation!

This volume of Starfinder Adventure Path continues the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path and includes:

  • "The Blind City," a Starfinder adventure for 7th-level characters, by Ron Lundeen.
  • A peek into several cults of the galaxy, along with a cult hunter character theme, by Lyz Liddell.
  • A catalog of strange gear from across known space, including bizarre artifacts, by Leo Glass.
  • An archive of fiery threats—some of which burn both the body and the soul—from cruel dimensional shamblers to the mischievous magmins, by David Gregoire, Violet Hargrave, and Ron Lundeen.
  • Deck plans and statistics for an efreeti warship and a survey of a world in the Vast that shines its own light into the void, both by Ron Lundeen.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-130-6

The Dawn of Flame Adventure Path is sanctioned for use in Starfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure Path and Chronicle sheet are available as a free download (1.2 MB PDF).

Other Resources: This product is also available on the following platforms:

Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
Archives of Nethys

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

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Dark and Light and a Muddled Story

2/5

In The Blind City, the PCs have just returned from a mysterious and enigmatic intrastellar location with (likely) more questions than answers. They've also come back with a mysterious tablet inscribed with multi-dimensional living Aklo script. It's more than a little creepy. Over the course of the adventure they learn more about the tablet and journey to the prison of an ancient eldritch entity to... explore? loot it for all its worth? go there just because they can?

All told, this adventure has some really interesting concepts, but it suffers from two critical problems: one is that the story is confusing and rather odd in its motivations and conclusions, and two is that the contents are surprisingly rote and video-gamey in their structure. It also suffers from the problem most of the Dawn of Flame books have had - the larger plot of the AP is nowhere to be found, leaving this book to entertain and entice on its own merits.

Although there's some fun to be had here, personally, I found it very flawed. Despite my best efforts to present things as clearly and engagingly as I could, my players started dragging their feet. It just wasn't hooking them in the same way as other adventures. I'd skip this one in the future.

The Good:
  • There's some good atmosphere to be had here. Evocative art, a really creepy setting, and the core concept of being corrupted while in the dark is perfectly spooky.
  • Encounters are basically pretty balanced.
  • Otlo is a fun and delightfully strange character.

  • The Bad:
  • Thematic Incoherence: The Eshtayiv is an eldritch maybe-god of corrupting light. It gets sealed in a prison made of utter darkness to trap it. However, when the players get into the prison, it's the darkness they need to be afraid of, because it afflicts them with the Eshtayiv's touch. Now suddenly light is good and darkness bad. The prison was presumably maintained by Azathoth cultists (given the opening scenes), but apparently Azathoth is all about light and solar energy in this story, rather than formless chaos. So now there are two light-aligned entities against one another? Add in solar keys that give off light (placed by the original builders? Why do they even need to play accessible keys in the prison?) and how the Eshtayiv's own corrupted creatures, the pyric undead, give off light that makes it so the Eshtayiv *can't* corrupt people it's minions are fighting! There's some serious mixed messages here. Ultimately, you have themes and plot that are very hard to grok.
  • Puzzling Plot Beats: There's a heck of a lot of them, from how Ilvatri just seems to be totally independent, to why the PCs would *EVER* choose to take the only thing keeping the Eshtayiv trapped here (releasing the eldritch being trying to kill them), to why they'd even take the risk of opening Ezorod in the first place with the tablet, to how much of a coincidence it is that several people recently got into Ezorod when the party needed a super exotic key tablet to do so, and so on and so on. These aren't always plot holes, but none have satisfying answers.
  • Motivation: As mentioned earlier, the PCs are assumed to want to open up the prison of an eldritch being that they *KNOW* is dangerous. Not because they have to. But because maybe there's something interesting inside. Because getting a chance at sweet solar bubble technology is worth opening Pandora's Box. Understandably, my players were like "UHH, NO?". No one was on board with this in character, and honestly, it's a bit of a hard sell out of character too. We eventually forged ahead with the understanding that that was how the adventure was written and we wanted to play it.
  • Video Game-like Design: I DETEST the fact that there's a weird door that requires three specially shaped keys to open, found at the end of three paths. All of Ezorod in fact is full of dangers and trials - but who are these trials supposed to stop? Most don't threaten the pyric creatures in any way. It's all such an artificial contrivance that adds nothing to the story at hand. Another artificial contrivance is how Otlo sends the party on a weird errand early on - fighting robots in his own workplace - to get them out of the picture for a moment so that Azathoth cultists can raid the building, but then Nib insists they take the tablet with them so they have it when the cultists arrive.
  • Samey Enemies: The pyric foes are basically just slightly fiery versions of normal undead, and there's a whole bunch of them here, repeated several times. Since their fire damage just gets to ignore fire resistance, they even add a feel-bad for the players that have specifically prepared to face fiery creatures by this point. Their "curse" is just the normal burning condition with a slightly higher DC in some cases. They don't have anything tactically interesting to do either, and their design lends itself to drawn out encounters (especially the wraiths that are incorporeal and heal themselves automatically every turn).
  • Long-ish dungeons: Ezorod suffers from being a fairly long dungeon with a lot of encounters, but without a lot of non-combat interest to break up the monotony. The minor mystery of the previous explorers is just set dressing, leaving only maybe the color-blighted remaining members as the only encounters that aren't solely either "roll skill checks until you succeed" or "fight a purely hostile foe without any personality". It's not particularly fun design.
  • Where the heck is the overarching plot of the AP? OK, it's book 4 at this point, and this is getting pretty ridiculous. Ezorod is one giant distraction from the larger plot of the AP, barely tied to the previous book and barely tied to the following one. In fact, by this point it's pretty clear that there really *isn't* a larger plot to this AP. The story set up from book 1 about Khaim and the legion has barely had any new information - just a couple of skirmishes with Khaim's agents that the PCs might not even recognize the importance of. I went out of my way to add more references and information about the Legion across the previous books, but even so, a proper introduction to the big bad is well past overdue. (Thankfully, the next book has exactly that!)

  • This is Eshtayiv review

    5/5

    So I succumbed under encouragement to review the single thing I liked most about this adventure :P But I will still attempt to summarize stuff I liked about adventure even though I don't know if its mechanically fun without playing it.

    So I liked Otlo. And Ezorod itself is really cool dungeon, the whole "dark place without light where main enemy type is on fire and darkness is deadly" is cool :D I also liked that text took in account the super unlikely scenario that PCs somehow rescue two characters from their horrible fate.

    I do have one thing about it that I'm kinda confused about

    on Ilvatri:
    So he is the only sapient pyric creature in Ezorod as a pyric healicus and that means he isn't one of Ezorod's original guardians by outer god cultists, but one of creatures turned by Esthayiv's touch. He is also the biggest obstacle Colour out of Space has in freeing Esthayiv because he doesn't want his home and domain to disappear. Well that clearly implies that Esthayiv doesn't have control over its servitors, but book kinda glosses over irony of this.
    I think its kinda the issue with Starfinder APs in general, because they have shorter page count, they don't have time to delve into motivations of characters too much, which in this AP would really have helped in certain books(like the final one). Starfinder APs do have cool NPCs with interesting motivations, but not enough pages to delve into depth of the character or what makes them tick.

    So now onto the "main" review :P

    About Esthayiv:
    Its evil consuming light that apparently hunts Outer Gods and Great Old ones :D That is awesome. I know its probably some sort of lovecraftian blasphemy to like idea of separate being from outer gods that is capable of threatening them, but Nodens was also creation of Lovecraft.(also if both Esthayiv and Outer Gods are beings from outside of multiverse, that makes things very interesting) And this one winning wouldn't be good for rest of universe either(its title is Incandescent Doom, what'd you expect?), I just like that it means Outer Gods aren't just straight up invincible so that all other evil gods can't do anything about them. I don't mind it if like Asmodeus couldn't do anything about Esthayiv or Outer Gods, I just like that Outer Gods have competition in first place.

    Besides liking that concept, one more specific thing I like is the pyric creatures :D Because evil light that creates firey undead creature that over time burn more and change forms is cool too. Makes every GM's inner pyromaniac weep tears of joy. Especially when its the tentacle monsters burning.

    But yeah, they should bring Esthayiv back in future too :D

    ALSO: We need Pyric Corruption. Please make it happen devs :D You know it'd be perfect thing for starfinder original Corruptions

    ...Anyway, Cults article is great. The ones that I remembered most without reading article again were Forgiven for being smug and Scales of the Conqueror for the whole "Our LE faith isn't aggressive and LE ENOUGH" aspect :D Still yeah, I hope to see more of all of these cults in future.

    Strange Gear article is great, and thanks for mad geniuses behind Flushbuster and Harmonic Reassembler specifically :p Replenigel Megavitamin is also hilarious(its gummy skittermanders made by abadarcorp that was originally meant as soldier food, but once wars with vesk ended they started selling surplus by shaping it into candy :p It has side effect of if you eat it too much, your skin smells like it and is waxy) I'd really love to discuss all items in article, but that would take too long also probably too much information.

    Bestiary is great, kinda already gushed about it in spoilers :p But magmins, magma oozes and dimensional shamblers out of the old creatures are cool of course. Well hot for two of them I guess.

    Oh and Codex of the World with Astevint the "lantern planet" aka planet with petrified glowing trees :D That is obviously cool


    Scarab Sages Webstore Coordinator

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Announced for May! Product image and description are not final and are subject to change.

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Cultists of Azathoth & an ancient lightless city sound like solid lovecraftian fun.

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Kinda weird that fight against someone who is trying to become a god will end around level 12 it seems ._.;

    Developer

    4 people marked this as a favorite.
    Marco Massoudi wrote:
    Cultists of Azathoth & an ancient lightless city sound like solid lovecraftian fun.

    Yes! This is the most Lovecraftian fun I've had since writing for the Strange Aeons AP!


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Cough...Cough... Wandrei's Fire Vampires and Long's Space Eaters (among other things, Muwahahahahahahahahaaa!) would be welcome Additions to the Golarion/Absalom Station Universe.

    Product Description wrote:
    evil elder entity

    Fthaggua? Cthugha? Edit:a previous volume I didn't notice called it Malikah

    Ron Lundeen wrote:
    This is the most Lovecraftian fun I've had since writing for the Strange Aeons AP!

    Ron, I know you guys at Paizo do well with Lovecraftian themes in Pathfinder with the Carrion Crown, Carrion Hill, and Strange Aeons, as well as several Bestiary entries, so I expect big things, and since you said you had fun writing it, I think it might have some dire implications if the players lose. Also, I just want you to know that Strange Aeons had the most well-rounded Aberration-heavy bestiary of every six-part AP I've ever read, and that's saying a lot, you guys were only missing three creature types after volume 6.

    Developer

    7 people marked this as a favorite.
    AmbassadoroftheDominion wrote:
    Ron, I know you guys at Paizo do well with Lovecraftian themes in Pathfinder with the Carrion Crown, Carrion Hill, and Strange Aeons, as well as several Bestiary entries, so I expect big things, and since you said you had fun writing it, I think it might have some dire implications if the players lose.

    Heck, it might have some dire implications if the players *win*!


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I think this one is due for an update.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

    That is a *sexy* new cover, I like!

    Dark Archive

    ...Are some of those shirren skeletons?

    Like shouldn't they be exoskeletons? Insects don't have skeletons ._.


    Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

    Those are exoskeletons...

    Dark Archive

    But umm, that looks like bone and not something made out of chitin

    Developer

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    CorvusMask wrote:

    ...Are some of those shirren skeletons?

    Like shouldn't they be exoskeletons? Insects don't have skeletons ._.

    That's Keskodai! Who is not a skeleton, and resents the implication. :-)

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Ron Lundeen wrote:
    CorvusMask wrote:

    ...Are some of those shirren skeletons?

    Like shouldn't they be exoskeletons? Insects don't have skeletons ._.

    That's Keskodai! Who is not a skeleton, and resents the implication. :-)

    I was thinking of skeleton between Keskodai's right hand and Iseph's head :D


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    CorvusMask wrote:
    But umm, that looks like bone and not something made out of chitin

    I mean to me all the skeletons look like metal.

    Liberty's Edge

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    Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

    Elves are so grumpy in Starfinder! :P


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Anorak wrote:
    Elves are so grumpy in Starfinder! :P

    I know! I love it!


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I love the bestiary in this volume. Amazing.

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Mimski wrote:
    I love the bestiary in this volume. Amazing.

    Can you share the names, type & CR? ;-)

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I am especially interested in he Dimensional Shambler, a lovecraftean creature that we don´t have in Pathfinder if i am right.


    Marco Massoudi wrote:
    I am especially interested in he Dimensional Shambler, a lovecraftean creature that we don´t have in Pathfinder if i am right.

    You are not. The dimensional shambler was featured in Carrion Crown #4: Wake of the Watcher.

    The Exchange

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    alien archive:

    Dimensional shambler CR 8 Outsider
    Magma ooze CR 7 Ooze
    Magmin CR 3 Outsider
    Pyric Harbinger CR 8 Aberration
    Pyric Heliacus CR 10 Undead
    Pyric revenant CR 4 Undead
    Pyric Wraith CR 6 Undead


    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    "Love" The Forgiven, since that highlights a lot of the issues I have with Sarenrae and her religion.

    Also, SKITTERMANDER GUMMI VITAMINS!!!!

    Developer

    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    More like GIANT skittermander gummy vitamins!


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

    "Love" The Forgiven, since that highlights a lot of the issues I have with Sarenrae and her religion.

    Also, SKITTERMANDER GUMMI VITAMINS!!!!

    The Forgiven?


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Jason Keeley wrote:
    More like GIANT skittermander gummy vitamins!

    HOOOOOOOOLY crap i missed that, these things are awesome!


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    VerBeeker wrote:
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

    "Love" The Forgiven, since that highlights a lot of the issues I have with Sarenrae and her religion.

    Also, SKITTERMANDER GUMMI VITAMINS!!!!

    The Forgiven?

    A cult within the Saranite religion, their thing is a warped importance of forgiveness, namely it’s the most important thing so we can do whatever we please and we can get forgiven for it, win-win.

    Dark Archive

    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
    VerBeeker wrote:
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

    "Love" The Forgiven, since that highlights a lot of the issues I have with Sarenrae and her religion.

    Also, SKITTERMANDER GUMMI VITAMINS!!!!

    The Forgiven?
    A cult within the Saranite religion, their thing is a warped importance of forgiveness, namely it’s the most important thing so we can do whatever we please and we can get forgiven for it, win-win.

    Umm, isn't that more of Shelyn thing?

    I mean, Sarenites come across as more "Repent or burn!" type thing when made extreme


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    CorvusMask wrote:
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
    VerBeeker wrote:
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

    "Love" The Forgiven, since that highlights a lot of the issues I have with Sarenrae and her religion.

    Also, SKITTERMANDER GUMMI VITAMINS!!!!

    The Forgiven?
    A cult within the Saranite religion, their thing is a warped importance of forgiveness, namely it’s the most important thing so we can do whatever we please and we can get forgiven for it, win-win.

    Umm, isn't that more of Shelyn thing?

    I mean, Sarenites come across as more "Repent or burn!" type thing when made extreme

    Emphasis on “extreme”.

    Sarenrae’s main thing is redemption.

    Dark Archive

    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
    CorvusMask wrote:
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
    VerBeeker wrote:
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

    "Love" The Forgiven, since that highlights a lot of the issues I have with Sarenrae and her religion.

    Also, SKITTERMANDER GUMMI VITAMINS!!!!

    The Forgiven?
    A cult within the Saranite religion, their thing is a warped importance of forgiveness, namely it’s the most important thing so we can do whatever we please and we can get forgiven for it, win-win.

    Umm, isn't that more of Shelyn thing?

    I mean, Sarenites come across as more "Repent or burn!" type thing when made extreme

    Emphasis on “extreme”.

    Sarenrae’s main thing is redemption.

    Well, yeah, but it also comes with "If evil doesn't accept redemption, wipe out the evil" aspect. Like Sarenite faith is basically martial faith where redemption focus comes with "if they CAN be redeemed, they should be redeemed"

    I guess the redemption IS the main advertisement for the religion though so makes sense from that aspect I guess. I've just noticed from Tristian in CRPG version how many times he also proposes something like "I don't think we can trust these evildoers so we should just bring justice upon them" and other type of comments where he applauds you for showing mercy and patience in situations where he wouldn't.


    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    Tristian isn't a good example for a typical follower of Sarenrae.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    You’re thinking of the Cult of the Dawnflower, most Sarenites don’t actually want to give “justice” to their enemies they want to see them revoke their evil ways just as the Godess does for several of her enemies.

    Also Tristian is a little lying sneak and I love him but there is a reason he’s stuck as a human.

    Dark Archive

    I mean, considering who he actually is, shouldn't he be the most accurate follower of Sarenrae even with all his failings? Then again

    Spoiler:
    Paizo does seem to treat celestial personalities kinda badly :p Hard to find ones who aren't kind of extreme

    Anyway, all of the things about redemption and justice I said were things from the wikipedia article, I could go check Inner Sea Gods next though. Or maybe I'm just misunderstanding something


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Yeah I would go with the actual book rather than a Wiki synopsis.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    .... why did it use that alias???

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Ummm... Does wikis make your blood rage?

    Anyhoo, I think the Sarenrae conversation is probably derail for a product thread, so I'm gonna PM stuff I found, but yeah, I found lots of support for the "Good is not soft" approach: The book basically says that she is really patient and always tries to offer mercy first, but is merciless when faced with irredeemable.

    Either way, Forgiven sound really heretic like which I guess is the intention yeah.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Yeah that is definitely the intention, they’re in the cults sections.


    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    I'm one of the authors of this project.
    Excited about its release.

    Silver Crusade

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    Slit518 wrote:

    I'm one of the authors of this project.

    Excited about its release.

    Yay!

    Developer

    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Slit518 wrote:

    I'm one of the authors of this project.

    Excited about its release.

    Me, too, with the excited!


    I'm mostly excited by the return of Dimensional Shamblers. :)

    Media Specialist, SmiteWorks USA (Fantasy Grounds)

    This is now available for purchase from Fantasy Grounds or on Steam. Sync your account first to get it a discount equivalent to the PDF Price ($15.99)

    Starfinder RPG - Dawn of Flame AP 4: The Blind City
    Publisher: Paizo Inc.
    Type: Adventure
    Get it on Steam

    Dark Archive

    Huh, there is editing error on page 30 in stat block that makes it sound like text is suddenly shouting :P(its bolded and all caps on creature's morale)

    Anyhoo, so this book has cool bestiary, cool weird items(and a toilet bomb) in article, cool non evil member of Aucturn's species(I like Otlo), cool list of cults, cool horror theme and cool darkness/light based dungeon...

    But I don't think I can review this one since it IS mostly horror, combat and exploration, so if I don't play or run it, my opinion would be mostly based on "concept of Eshtayiv is cool!" rather than how the adventure actually plays through <_<


    CorvusMask wrote:

    Huh, there is editing error on page 30 in stat block that makes it sound like text is suddenly shouting :P(its bolded and all caps on creature's morale)

    Anyhoo, so this book has cool bestiary, cool weird items(and a toilet bomb) in article, cool non evil member of Aucturn's species(I like Otlo), cool list of cults, cool horror theme and cool darkness/light based dungeon...

    But I don't think I can review this one since it IS mostly horror, combat and exploration, so if I don't play or run it, my opinion would be mostly based on "concept of Eshtayiv is cool!" rather than how the adventure actually plays through <_<

    You can review it on those prospects :3

    Dark Archive

    Yeah, but reviewing book based on "I like one NPC, articles, horror theme and concept of

    :
    evil being of light that is enemy of outer gods and seemingly capable of threatening them
    " is bit weird since its small part of the overall book <_<;

    I mean, I did it once regarding the seal-breaker article, but that was because I wanted devs to know I liked it specifically :p


    Please use spoiler tags, that's a big part of the adventure there.

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    captain yesterday wrote:
    Please use spoiler tags, that's a big part of the adventure there.

    Ah, sorry, added spoiler tag ^^;


    Thank you!


    CorvusMask wrote:

    Yeah, but reviewing book based on "I like one NPC, articles, horror theme and concept of ** spoiler omitted **" is bit weird since its small part of the overall book <_<;

    I mean, I did it once regarding the seal-breaker article, but that was because I wanted devs to know I liked it specifically :p

    It’s valid, just point out you’re rating it on those areas ^w^

    It also lets the writers and Paizo know what parts you like.

    Dark Archive

    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
    CorvusMask wrote:

    Yeah, but reviewing book based on "I like one NPC, articles, horror theme and concept of ** spoiler omitted **" is bit weird since its small part of the overall book <_<;

    I mean, I did it once regarding the seal-breaker article, but that was because I wanted devs to know I liked it specifically :p

    It’s valid, just point out you’re rating it on those areas ^w^

    It also lets the writers and Paizo know what parts you like.

    I was hoping to get across liking the spoilers in review for final book :'D I forgot whether I remembered to emphasis it or not

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    So I now did the review :P And since I did the review..

    Psst, Paizo, I really want that Pyric Corruption to be a thing :D Please pretty please?

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