Pathfinder Adventure Path #144: Midwives to Death (Tyrant's Grasp 6 of 6)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #144: Midwives to Death (Tyrant's Grasp 6 of 6)

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Against the Rise of Terror

The heroes finally have the tools they need to stop the Whispering Tyrant, but the lich-king has not been idle. Why has he devoted so much attention to an isolated border fortress, right when divinity seems to be within his grasp? A quest to discover the tyrant's secrets plunges the heroes into a deadly race through a fecund forest, into fearsome dungeons built long before the Shining Crusade, and between spiteful villains harboring ancient grudges. Old enemies stand in the heroes' way yet again, but unexpected allies can help turn the rising tide of death and despair. If the heroes are victorious, they can seize the only chance to deny the Whispering Tyrant his greatest weapon and strike him down before he gains the power of a god.

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path provides the dramatic conclusion to the Tyrant's Grasp Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Midwives to Death," a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 16th-level characters, by John Compton.
  • A massive article celebrating the final Adventure Path volume for the first edition of the Pathfinder RPG. Written by Paizo's developers and designers to close out the first edition with a bang, this article presents new monsters, GM advice, gods both new and revised, staff PCs, a new prestige class, new archetypes, and more! These new rules work with the Tyrant's Grasp Adventure Path or any campaign, and are written by John Compton, Adam Daigle, Eleanor Ferron, Thurston Hillman, James Jacobs, Jason Keeley, Luis Loza, Ron Lundeen, Robert G. McCreary, Erik Mona, Michael Sayre, Owen K.C. Stephens, Mark Seifter, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-144-3

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

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Emphasizing a Different Type of Heroism

4/5

If you read all the 1-stars above you might be feeling a little discouraged about this adventure. Having just read them myself, I'm scratching my head about whether they read the same book(s) as I did.

There are some spoilers below, so be warned.

The first half of the adventure takes place in one of the Whispering Tyrant's bunker/barracks where the party has the opportunity to fight and/or intrigue against several powerful undead commanders. There's plenty of room here for RP and even a moral dilemma when a powerful devil offers to remove an undead army from consideration.

After the dungeon, the adventure offers a change of pace in the form of a Wild Hunt choosing them as its prey, but this is a bit of a side note before getting to Absalom, where Tar-Baphon and his armies are engaged with Absalom's defenders. This part of the adventure involves the party striving to taunt the Whispering Tyrant by defeating his lieutenants and driving him berserk with rage and frustration.

The climactic battle deserves some special mention since it seems to be angering many people. I'd like to push back on that a little bit.

Again, SPOILERS:

The final gambit is an echo of Arazni's in Book 4: to provoke the lich into nuking his annoying enemies. For the PCs, their obols were modified in Book 5 to make them amplify positive energy and reflect the Radiant Fire back on Tar-Baphon. In the process, the PCs are destroyed body and soul. Tar-Baphon is not permanently destroyed; though his bid for godhood fails his phylactery is safe and he eventually reforms.

I think this is a bold choice, in a genre where the party usually kills the bad guy and gets an unequivocal victory, having an ending where the heroes sacrifice everything for an incomplete victory has enormous potential for bittersweet storytelling. If that's not your jam, the adventure provides a way out in the form of a magical tree from book 5 acting as a pseudo-phylactery...but I think people should give ending as written some consideration. Having characters not get the power fantasy ending for one campaign is intriguing, and it certainly doesn't warrant the rage its seemed to have inspired.

On the negative side, there are some pacing issues in the last half of the adventure. I also worry that a CR26 final boss fight might be too harsh on the party, even with help from a pair of fairly powerful NPCs and the obols. Mythic has a strong potential to make this a one-sided slaughter, so be careful. That said, on the whole it's a good contribution to the last AP of PF1.


Utter, baffling disappointment

1/5

I have a tough time summarizing my complaints with this book, but I want to be as clear as I can, so let me put some things into context. Also there's some spoilers in here, but if you're GMing this they're well worth knowing before you buy this.

You will be returning to Avistan with what essentially amounts to a narrative "doomsday clock" over your head. No, not a hard one like in Wrath of the Righteous, but certainly the fact that the Whispering Tyrant is basically going to win tomorrow is pretty huge. So, with that in mind, let's look at some of the things Paizo wastes pages on while you are (presumably) rushing to save the world:
-An encounter with a wild hunt you're strong enough to fight wanting to "play hunt" with you, along with 5 pages of rules for how to do it.
-gambling with a rawhead
-dining with a Daughter of Urgathoa
-playing undead politics

To say nothing of the utterly baffling pacing of this, it also seems so unbelievably rushed in the places that matter. The whole plot is a mess; literally 2/3rds of the game exist to allow you to do a dungeon, since Tar-Baphon "made his generals retake their vows to him" and then for no particular reason only moved 1/2 his army to Absalom seemingly allow the PC's to enter his spooky dungeon and have something to fight. But in the end, you're expected to fight him alongside your newest friends, who are so important you meet them about 2 hours prior and they don't even have unique stat blocks.

You do not reach level 20, and in the end you die. But not just die; no, you sacrifice your SOULS to stop Tar-Baphon, consigning yourself to oblivion. Now, that's the stuff of legends right there IF IT'S HANDLED WELL, but having just read 2E's world guide, do you know what happens to Tar-Baphon?

He just comes back in a bit and is now scheming away on the Isle of Terror. The Lost Omens guide literally invalidates the actions of this whole AP. The book ends with a throwaway line about "the Whispering Tyrant still being out there woooooooo" before immediately rushing to show off some special creations of the writers on staff, and then it's OFF TO 2E!

This book was an underwhelming mess, poorly paced, badly bloated, and yet somehow unbelievably rushed. I honestly can't believe they allowed one of their most notorious villains to be portrayed like this, and now that he's back it means the entire AP was worth far less than the amount of money I paid for it. If you can, either rewrite this book yourself for your group, or just skip this AP. It's completely meaningless anyways.


A very nice ending to 1E

4/5

I have been very disappointed in 'Tyrant's Grasp', and since a lot of people have criticized it, I did not have high expectations for 'Midwives to Death', either. However, I was positively surprised when I got the module a few days ago. In my opinion all the maps are very good, it's well-written, it has a coherent plot and contains a lot of interesting encounters. If you ask me, this is one of the best AP installments in a long while, along with 'Last Watch' and' It came from Hollow Mountain'.

I think John has done very good job with this adventure, and it's even more impressive when you consider the pressure of writing the last module for the First Edition! :)


I'm satisfied with the ending.

5/5

Overall, I rather like the adventure, the side bar on how to switch things up was very well done I thought (for the record If I run Tyrant's Grasp I will be using the side bar ending instead).

While this AP has issues in earlier installments, this one isn't among them.

The developer showcase is also really solid though I'm disappointed Mark and Thursty used their space for advice instead of something else, it's still good advice and certainly not worth knocking off a star.

I especially liked the inclusion of Iblydan hero gods, as well Angradd and Nocticula 2.0.


A horrible way to end it

1/5

For the very last AP of the first edition the developers literally pulled one out of their....

These mods seemed more inline with a convention module series where the players have no real connection to their PCs.

Was also not a fan of the majority of the artwork in this one either. I hope to see a better effort in Age of Ashes.

I will say this, the Noticula effort was first class, but not enough for me to raise this mess of an AP to two stars


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Scarab Sages Webstore Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Announced for July! Product image and description are not final.


Hmmm. Wonder how much damage/alteration is going to be made to Absalom and/or the Starstone Cathedral.

Dark Archive

7 people marked this as a favorite.

This is it - the final Pathfinder 1.0 product!
I still love this Game!


Might have the effect of what happened when Forgotten realms flipped over to 4th edition or so, The Spellplague, and other world shaking stuff changed things so much with how things worked that a new edition was needed to handle it.


Wow. Well at least even if they kill Tar-Barphon they won't actually win since his phylactry is kind of stuck deep in Gallowspire.

But this...seems even more epic than Return of the Runelords.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

So... "dramatic changes for Golarion"


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Dramatic changes = 2nd edition.

Dark Archive

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

Woah, bit of action on Absolom!


6 people marked this as a favorite.

Ah, it's the book where people's dreams and hopes die, everything that's beautiful vanishes, and I get to feast upon all the anguish and sorrow.

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Well call me surprised, Absalom actually gets featured in AP ._.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

While I'm sure that dramatic changes are going to be handled as power shifts and new regions, or maybe a new deity or even the vanishing of the starstone itself... Aroden could be revived or something around this. I don't think it will change the entire landscape or how magic works or the core nations, and perhaps not major concepts as well.

It would be epic if Aroden was revived for a final clash against the Tyrant. Well, I at least hope the Starstone can grant us a new Ascended - hopefully not in the form of a new god of undeath...

Scarab Sages

CorvusMask wrote:
Well call me surprised, Absalom actually gets featured in AP ._.

For being "the city at the centre of the word" their big products don't do a lot there.


7 people marked this as a favorite.

Squealy Nord, God of Pigs.


I'm pretty sure there will not be any more gods. But I've been known to be wrong before.


7 people marked this as a favorite.

I Triple Dog Dare someone to do Mythic Nord.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

The finale of PF1 reads like it is literally setting about to shoot a GIANT DEATH RAY at the settings BBEG. I love it!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Use the Starstone to power a Wave Motion Gun?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

TAR-BAPHON MUST DIE!

my guess is that things will certainly not be the same after that. I Imagine that there will be a somewhat bittersweet element to the ending since it seems the shards needed to help use the radient fire are imbeded in your souls, rendering you unstuck from death to a degree. using them will likely result in your characters becoming mortal again. that being said, i look forward to ridding the world of the Whispering tyrant. Once and for all hopefully. But evil never truely sleeps forever, and i am sure some other undead lichlord will try to follow in his boney footsteps. hopefully not to the same degree of success.

Dark Archive

5 people marked this as a favorite.

My guess is the "cracking open of the starstone cathedral" will change how magic works.

Either that or it willcause "the Gap", creating Absalom Station. ;-)


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
ErisAcolyte-Chaos jester wrote:

TAR-BAPHON MUST DIE! (Again.)

There, fixed it for you! ;)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

More seriously, this looks like an intriguing continuation of the setting changes put in motion by Return of the Runelords.

I'm also wondering if the AP could end with Aroden's return, but this time as a deity of death (not necessarily an evil one). Maybe Pharasma's has been hiding him all along, teaching Aroden part of her portfolio.


Well if Bane from FR could hide in a 'sentient shell' *cough cough* Then why not?


Finally we get an adventure path in Absalom! I hope this means we'll get a proper canonical write-up on the Starstone.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Brother Fen wrote:

Finally we get an adventure path in Absalom! I hope this means we'll get a proper canonical write-up on the Starstone.

Just to manage expectations here... this Adventure Path comes CLOSE to Absalom, but doesn't go into the city itself.

Spoiler:
If the PCs do their job, they stop the Tyrant before he gets that far.

Absalom is a huge city with LOTS of potential, and it's not something we're going to avoid doing adventure path content with and in forever. But it's not going to be fully explored and you won't get a lot of new info on the Starstone in this adventure. The climax has other things to focus on that'll be more clear once the adventure path is out.


Thanks for the clarification, James!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

It's not the first time "Dramatic Changes" in a story line or setting happen to foreshadow a new edition. Monte Cook states how in "Ptolus" he foreshadowed the move to a new edition by having another moon in the sky. When the moon finally revealed itself, the PCs were reborn in the new edition. I thought that was darn clever.


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

Considering that the entire Pathfinder campaign setting is predicated on Aroden's death, and it's been stated by developers numerous times that they'll probably never reveal how he died - no, Aroden isn't coming back. It would be also be a deus ex machina-sized cop out.

I'm just bummed that some of Golarion's biggest baddies have been killed off lately. Hopefully we get some new ones in 2nd edition.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Generic,

Eh. I remain unconvinced they're going to actually KILL off Tar Barphon. They might blow him up but until someone gets a hold of phylactery, I think he could still be there.


Well this can be a new golden era where bands of vaguely psychopathic kleptomaniacs will no longer roam the land hunting down eldritch evils.
;)


quote wrote:
This volume also includes an extensive article showcasing the final material written by Paizo's developers for the first edition of the Pathfinder RPG.

What does this actually mean?

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Axial wrote:
quote wrote:
This volume also includes an extensive article showcasing the final material written by Paizo's developers for the first edition of the Pathfinder RPG.
What does this actually mean?

I imagine it will be a retrospective.

Dark Archive

The description says this AP will be for level 16 pc's.

What will the final level be (i guess 18)?
Will the characters be able to level up to 17 or 18 before the boss fight?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Most of the newer AP's give the players some fights at their final level, so I'd postulate that this one will, too.


I’m more than a little annoyed at the description of this book because

Spoiler:
it’s word-for-word from the “Adventure Path spoilers” section of book 1 and casually drops information in a manner such that the person reading it is supposed to know the stuff, and it casually drops names (e.g. Radiant Fire) that isn’t necessarily supposed to be known to prospective players of the AP.

I wish they’d change the product description for those reasons.

Silver Crusade

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

It's the final of the AP, of course it's gonna mention previous important things in the AP that led to this.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Rysky wrote:
It's the final of the AP, of course it's gonna mention previous important things in the AP that led to this.

PSSST! Boss! I think you meant finale not final!

Paizo Employee Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
magnuskn wrote:
Most of the newer AP's give the players some fights at their final level, so I'd postulate that this one will, too.

Your postulation is more or less correct!

Paizo Employee Developer

15 people marked this as a favorite.
Axial wrote:
quote wrote:
This volume also includes an extensive article showcasing the final material written by Paizo's developers for the first edition of the Pathfinder RPG.
What does this actually mean?

It means we've got several pages dedicated to providing our developers (and a few other internal folks) their last opportunity to provide you with content designed for the first edition. This volume has no separate bestiary (although there are new monsters) and no Continuing the Campaign article (although there's plenty of great GM advice).

I basically told all the developers: "Okay, you each get 2 pages to write what will be the last thing in the last adventure of the last AP of our first edition. Bonus points for tying it to the themes of this AP so GMs can more easily get some use out of it. Pitch me your preferences!" And then I curated and compiled it all for a total of--I believe--28 pages. (Patrick Renie took on the task of developing it all when told, "Welcome back to Paizo, now develop your peers' labors of love!")

I won't go into who picked what to write about just yet, although you'll see what each of us created when this volume comes out. There's a truly staggering variety: new archetypes, a prestige class, NPCs, monsters, and more. I think a few people will think "Wow, I never expected to get that slipped into first edition, but here it is!" and others will think, "Hey, that's something I never thought of before now, what a great last-minute addition!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ron Lundeen wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Most of the newer AP's give the players some fights at their final level, so I'd postulate that this one will, too.
Your postulation is more or less correct!

Excellent. Thanks for the info! :)

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Master Pugwampi wrote:
Rysky wrote:
It's the final of the AP, of course it's gonna mention previous important things in the AP that led to this.
PSSST! Boss! I think you meant finale not final!

I did but it's not like I'm wrong :3

Grand Lodge

I think it's been delayed until the next month. I'd wondered about that when I saw that July was being skipped altogether for the release schedules of products. I can be patient.


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

I just hope they provide a way to start a subscription in between what are now the two August products in this line.

Dark Archive

This & Starfinder AP#18 would have been the only july products, which would make no sense financially.

But damn, i can't imagine that there will be much traffic on the Paizo website in july with nothing new out and everyone preparing for Gencon and Second Edition...

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Hopefully 2nd edition will have some elements for either converting the systems back from 2ed to 1st ed. It's been a big thing I have enjoyed doing and it will be hard to transition. But that's it's own thing. As for this, I just hope that one day we get to figure out what happened to Gebs rival Nex. Because a possible return of another ancient wizard shoes personal war for power created the manner wastes is too cool to just have left as a mystery Forever. Geb needs closure for pity's sake. Also I wonder how ustalav will change with the whispering tyrant truely gone. Likely not as much. The massive evil is gone, but I am sure we will get another terrible evil to replace him. And likely it will return to business as usual.

Dark Archive

Nex is actually a thing in Pathfinder Worldscape comics <_<


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Marco Massoudi wrote:

This & Starfinder AP#18 would have been the only july products, which would make no sense financially.

But damn, i can't imagine that there will be much traffic on the Paizo website in july with nothing new out and everyone preparing for Gencon and Second Edition...

I am sure the Paizo website will be very busy in July -- there just won't be a lot of cash registers ringing unless they have a pre-2nd edition sale.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

No "Continuing the Campaign" article? This worries me a bit.

On the other hand, if the PCs are already dead (IIRC from Book 1 - it's been a while since I skimmed it) and the plot-line is finished in Book 6, then the PCs can go to their well-earned rest in the Outer Planes. That angry catrina psychopomp can finally pigeon-hole them the way that she wanted to do back in Book 1. :)

And there could be enough world-changing stuff going on by the end of Book 6 that it doesn't make sense to continue the campaign (unless one does that with new/different characters).


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

Does this adventure path go all the way to 20th level? If so, there would be no reason for a "Continuing the Campaign" article.

Grand Lodge

David knott 242 wrote:
Does this adventure path go all the way to 20th level? If so, there would be no reason for a "Continuing the Campaign" article.

There's rules in the Core book to continue beyond 20th level, and there's also always mythic levels that can be taken.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Campaigns can indeed go past character level 20. There's both the Mythic rules and the brief one-page mention of epic rules at the end of the CRB's chapter 12. Veterans of Paizo's three Dungeon APs (SCap, AoW, and STap) can easily have gone past character level 20, using the ELH.

Obviously Mythic and Epic are two different things, but they each serve to "power up" the characters.

Some argue that the math starts to break down past character level 20, just as some might argue that the high 'teen levels are not that good either. But that doesn't make the game completely unplayable.

So no, I don't see character level 20 as an immovable campaign ender.

Edit: Ninja'ed! :)

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