Pathfinder Adventure Path #145: Hellknight Hill (Age of Ashes 1 of 6)

3.40/5 (based on 18 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #145: Hellknight Hill (Age of Ashes 1 of 6)

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Dawn of a New Age

Fires burn atop the ruined citadel on Hellknight Hill, sending plumes of red smoke into the air that could be a call for help. Within the old keep, strange invaders from a distant land, mysterious long-lost ruins, and the machinations of a shadowy organization await discovery. Something dire is building toward an apocalyptic event, and it falls to your characters to stop the end before it begins. The Age of Ashes Adventure Path begins with "Hellknight Hill"—a complete adventure for 1st- to 4th-level characters.

ISBN: 978-1-64078-173-3

Online Resources: Rules and mechanics from this book can be accessed for free on Paizo's official online resource: Archives of Nethys. Click here!

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5/5

Simply a very good adventure to start playing pf2. You find interesting, very easy for a novice Gm in pf2 to direct and carry it correctly. There are opportunities for role-playing, research and combat in a manageable environment for a novice Gm.
The book is structured in a fantastic way.
Sincerely, a first book of the path totally recommended to start with pf2.


New Edition, Old School Feel

5/5

Despite providing some new twists (such as rescuing goblins from a crazed halfling instead of the other way around), a lot of Hellknight Hill feels like a callback to older dungeon crawls. The PCs have a large structure to delve through and numerous factions with which to interact. A desire for exploration drives most of the adventure, allowing the PCs to grow together as a group and figure out how to unearth the secrets of Hellknight Hill in their own way.

The factions provide a lot of potential for expansion and interaction. In a short amount of space, the text delivers a good feel for each monster and its motivations. This leaves a lot of room for expansion of the GM desires and lets the PCs choose many different ways to bypass their problems. Do the adventurers kill all the monsters? Do they work with some of them? Play the different factions off of each other? These choices seem basic, but the fact that the adventure doesn't push the PCs too hard down one path allows the group to find their own identity and grow together as a team.

This volume lacks a real big bad at the end (although one particular nasty foe can turn into a TPK if the PCs get too cocky). Technically, the cultists the PCs face do have a named leader, but he and his followers are in a desperate situation themselves and don't feel like end bosses. However, their presence provides enough foreshadowing that PCs should be intrigued by what the future holds.

In terms of feel, I think this module compares to old school D&D modules like In Search of the Unknown and Keep on the Borderlands. The story unfolds gradually, but in doing so it showcases the latitude and depth of options that RPGs allow. The adventure thus serves as a great introduction to new players without repeating so many old tropes that old players might get bored.

Hellknight Hill serves as a solid first volume to the Age of Ashes adventure path, but it can also function as a stand-alone adventure if desired. It's a fun adventure with a wide variety of challenges, interesting NPCs, and lots of room for expansion.


Tons of fun

5/5

Had a lot of fun with this, just got through it, players loved it.


Solid intro for second edition

3/5

This adventure is packed with traditional fantasy rpg elements and monsters as well as some new ones. It has some fun NPCs that could be friends, rivals or outright enemies depending on what your players choose. That said, this adventure is not ground breaking.
The plot is a good scene setter for the Adventure Path, which itself is going to be ethically fascinating.
Some things feel quite rushed, the art, for instance, is repeatedly inconsistent with the text. The physical barriers between each chapter feel forced.

I see two audiences for this adventure:

1) People new to fantasy RPGs, who get a solid introduction to the genre in its traditional form. This will put the weird and wonderful things that Paizo do into context.
2) Seasoned gamers, who will get to see how the rules of second edition work with all those old school elements.

One thing in it stands out as not being old school, and that is the diversity. This is one of the things I love about Paizo: real world discrimination exists and can be a focus of an adventure BUT in most places your average shopkeep isn't misogynistic. On Golarian there are too many lich demi-gods of fantastic ancestries who are raining down terror for most people to create our naive, real-world biases.


Wary of the direction of Golarion.

2/5

A short summary of my impressions on Hellknight Hill, and the direction AP's are taking in general:

1) They're making goblins too cute. I imagine they want Goblins to be cleaner because they're hoping hoping for a younger and more broad 5e "critical role" audience crossover. Also, because they've made goblins a core class, they figure goblins should be more socially acceptable?

I don't like that.

Something I like about Pathfinder APs is that they haven't shied away from gritty and sometimes awful themes. I don't want a toned-down 'safe' world to play in.

Cute goblins are easily fixable though. And I have no problems making things nasty and horrific myself.

2) There are some other strange plot holes, but easy to fix. I've been seeing more of these plot holes in more recent APs (since Return of the Runelords, you can see my review of Roderick's Cove under that product.)

I wonder if Paizo has been overworked with the release of PF2, and that's making the AP's suffer. I'm holding out for the January 2020 AP. That will tell the tale on whether there is another problem other than a lack of manpower.

3) Some NPCs are ridiculously obvious and feel like they're written for 12-year old players who need to be smashed over the head with plot. Again, I'm wary that Paizo might be trying to make their stories more accessible, and by doing that, losing some of the great (adult) atmosphere they've created in the past.

CONCLUSION: This book makes me wonder: will they ever do a horror AP again? If they've made goblins into friends, are they going to tone down the horror of incestuous ogres, etc?

I wouldn't call it a classic AP book by any means, but the format is good and some aspects are nicely thought out. I think it could be a really interesting campaign, but I'm very wary of the 'safe' and almost trite tone that they're taking, and of the weak plot holes that should be fixed with more time and editing.

I was worried that they would reformat the books to reduce content, but there is plenty of content in this book. It actually feels more dense than previous APs.


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Paizo Employee Creative Director

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Marco Massoudi wrote:

Can you please do one thing different in the new AP volumes?

Please include a list of the magical and special items that can be found throughout the adventure in an appendix at the end of the book and where they can be found.
Most ideally include the value behind the item.

It takes up so much time to search for all the items throughout the books of an AP (i am now looking in book #1 & 2 of Strange Aeons where which books have been found to see what kind of bonus they give to skill checks and it is so much unnecessary work).

Thank you for considering this. :-)

Something like this is VERY much part of the plan, but it's not going to be something we'll be able to solve with the first volume of Age of Ashes. Or the second. MAYBE by the third adventure... but no promises.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:

Can you please do one thing different in the new AP volumes?

Please include a list of the magical and special items that can be found throughout the adventure in an appendix at the end of the book and where they can be found.
Most ideally include the value behind the item.

It takes up so much time to search for all the items throughout the books of an AP (i am now looking in book #1 & 2 of Strange Aeons where which books have been found to see what kind of bonus they give to skill checks and it is so much unnecessary work).

Thank you for considering this. :-)

Something like this is VERY much part of the plan, but it's not going to be something we'll be able to solve with the first volume of Age of Ashes. Or the second. MAYBE by the third adventure... but no promises.

Thank you for your very quick answers here and for all the great work and improvements in the last 10+ years and hopefully the next 10+ years. :-)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

12 people marked this as a favorite.

And in fact, I think we just solved it all in time for the first Adventure Path. We shall see!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
And in fact, I think we just solved it all in time for the first Adventure Path. We shall see!

Even if it is just an appendix in the sixth book, it will be a tremendous help!

Thank you! :-)

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I just extended my subscription with my FLGS up to AP #150!


Aashaq, Sixth King, Damiel... Who else could it be? The "ultimate villain" of this adventure.

Mr. Erik has said this adventure will take us across the continent and even beyond, that there is a network of portals that we will use to travel, and that we will uncover a draconic conspiracy...

Aashaq is one of the most notorious dragons in the setting, but we can't forget there is the suspicious gold dragon in Hermea, a nation of dragons in the Dragon Empires, and also the linnorms of the First World. There's also the Black Comment of Rovagug and the immortality seeking blue dragon Deyrubrujan.

Yet again, I still think that the villain isn't going to be a dragon. Maybe it has one of the dragon controlling orbs or an alliance with dragons, but I think the bad guy will be an humanoid or half humanoid.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

I think the main villain will be Cosmo.


7 people 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:
I think the main villain will be Cosmo.

The return of the Runelords, then Tar-Baphon, followed by Cosmo?!?

Has Golarion not suffered enough?!?

;)


2 people marked this as a favorite.

In the words of the dumb thief from Home Alone: "NEVER!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Honestly the more i think on it the more it feels like we may be seeing Choral the Conqueror, or possibly finding out what happened to House Rogarvia. The back matter in Kingmaker implied that that dragon was using the name, but might not actually be Choral. I think it would be a bit neat though if this flight of dragons set to burn all was actually the Rogarvia family, who were secretly dragons taking a humanoid form, and something lead to them fleeing. But this is just my new crazy theory.


Have the titles of the other adventures been revealed yet?

Dark Archive

Nick O'Connell wrote:
Have the titles of the other adventures been revealed yet?

Nope.

Dark Archive

Another thing i would like to see for second edition is a flip-mat for at least the first book of an AP (ideally one for each book).

I know it isn't possible to provide a flip-mat for each encounter area, but i am thinking about something like the "Town square" flip-mat for the RotR AE/AP #1.

In the case of this AP, how cool would it be to get the entry area of the Hellknight citadel?

You provided a great multi-pack for the playtest & also a flip-mat for the first second edition module, so it doesn't seem impossible. ;-)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Marco Massoudi wrote:

Another thing i would like to see for second edition is a flip-mat for at least the first book of an AP (ideally one for each book).

I know it isn't possible to provide a flip-mat for each encounter area, but i am thinking about something like the "Town square" flip-mat for the RotR AE/AP #1.

In the case of this AP, how cool would it be to get the entry area of the Hellknight citadel?

You provided a great multi-pack for the playtest & also a flip-mat for the first second edition module, so it doesn't seem impossible. ;-)

We aren't doing flip-mat tie ins for Adventure Paths at this point.

Dark Archive

Are pawn collections still going to be a thing for second edition?

Alternatively, is "Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures" (september 2019) going to contain some minis featured in the "Age of Ashes" adventure path?

Thank you for your time. :-)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Marco Massoudi wrote:

Are pawn collections still going to be a thing for second edition?

Alternatively, is "Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures" (september 2019) going to contain some minis featured in the "Age of Ashes" adventure path?

Thank you for your time. :-)

You'll have to wait for announcements to find out.

Grand Lodge

Will the adventure paths be numbered starting with 1.
The collector in me wants this so much as I wasn’t able to collect all the AP’s for first edition lol.

If not please consider this for us collectors.

Dark Archive

Larz wrote:

Will the adventure paths be numbered starting with 1.

The collector in me wants this so much as I wasn’t able to collect all the AP’s for first edition lol.

If not please consider this for us collectors.

This has already been answered as one of the first comments on page 1.

This is numbered AP #145.


James Jacobs wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:

Are pawn collections still going to be a thing for second edition?

Alternatively, is "Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures" (september 2019) going to contain some minis featured in the "Age of Ashes" adventure path?

Thank you for your time. :-)

You'll have to wait for announcements to find out.

The lack of any pawn announcement so far doesn't seem to bode well, but I hope I'm just being paranoid...


bugleyman wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:

Are pawn collections still going to be a thing for second edition?

Alternatively, is "Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures" (september 2019) going to contain some minis featured in the "Age of Ashes" adventure path?

Thank you for your time. :-)

You'll have to wait for announcements to find out.
The lack of any pawn announcement so far doesn't seem to bode well, but I hope I'm just being paranoid...

So far, pawn collections have been released after the main product, as supplements. IIRC, they are among the products mentioned to be included in second edition new product lines.

Dark Archive

The Gold Sovereign wrote:
bugleyman wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:

Are pawn collections still going to be a thing for second edition?

Alternatively, is "Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures" (september 2019) going to contain some minis featured in the "Age of Ashes" adventure path?

Thank you for your time. :-)

You'll have to wait for announcements to find out.
The lack of any pawn announcement so far doesn't seem to bode well, but I hope I'm just being paranoid...
So far, pawn collections have been released after the main product, as supplements. IIRC, they are among the products mentioned to be included in second edition new product lines.

I don't know.

D&D hasn't got any pawn products and Wizkids is selling a lot more pre-painted miniatures for that line than for the Pathfinder Battles line.
Paizo is paying for the pawns production themselves, whereas Wizkids is producing the minis under license from Paizo.

Not producing pawns does save costs.

If looking back at Pathfinder 1E, there havn't been any pawns for the early APs.
Only the "Rise of the Runelords Anniversary edition" introduced them and "Skull & Shackles" was the first AP to receive pawns in 2013.

Legacy of Fire, Second Darkness, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, Serpent's Skull, Carrion Crown & Jade Regent have no pawns.

It may very well be financially viable to not produce any pawns initially.

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I don't think not producing pawns from the get go was a marketing tactic, they just didn't start off with them for a variety of reasons.

Considering how easy they sell out I don't think we'll have to worry about them not making them :3


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

I know I have every AP pawn set released so far, for both Pathfinder and Starfinder.

And I'd love to buy sets for the previously missed APs if offered.


So I still think main villain might be Cosmo disguised as another entity in this AP.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So I still think main villain might be Cosmo disguised as another entity in this AP.

The Villain was revealed in the Pathfinder Friday show and its reveal surely made this AP even more appealing to me. There's a huge possibility for two articles I always hoped for to finally make it in one of the volumes.

Spoiler:
I hope to see articles about the dragon gods Dahak and Apsu and their heralds in the bestiaries. Maybe even a new draconic ancestry?


It still could be Cosmo! He just puts on a mask and stuff.


The Gold Sovereign wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So I still think main villain might be Cosmo disguised as another entity in this AP.

The Villain was revealed in the Pathfinder Friday show and its reveal surely made this AP even more appealing to me. There's a huge possibility for two articles I always hoped for to finally make it in one of the volumes.

** spoiler omitted **

oh what was it about the reveal that boosted your interest?


Eternally Lost Boy wrote:
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So I still think main villain might be Cosmo disguised as another entity in this AP.

The Villain was revealed in the Pathfinder Friday show and its reveal surely made this AP even more appealing to me. There's a huge possibility for two articles I always hoped for to finally make it in one of the volumes.

** spoiler omitted **

oh what was it about the reveal that boosted your interest?

Well, the main villain was revealed to be...

Spoiler:
Dahak, an evil dragon god, and the AP will be expanding pathfinder's draconic lore.

My two favorite creature types are the fey - and we got a whole Campaign Setting about them, their realms and their Eldest - and the dragons... We don't have enough information for dragons as we have for the fey, so I'm really excited to see Paizo expanding on this subject. Their faith, their society, maybe an ecology article about the many types or groups of dragons.

The other point is that Paizo has finally touched a subject that a number of their costumers had been asking for, even if some were skeptical (myself included) about them doing an AP about this particular subject. Now I can say it, we don't need to be afraid of Paizo not doing their adventures because a similar story has been told by others.

So I'm happy that we are finally getting some draconic love. I'm hoping for faith articles, ecology for unexplored ones, player options and maybe even an ancestry... Half or even one of this additions would be great!


how easy will it be to convert it into PF1 rules?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

We did have a few PF1 (and earlier) books from Paizo dealing with Dragons.

But I am sure some people will always be in the market for more draconic lore and material, and Linnorms too :-D

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Hythlodeus wrote:
how easy will it be to convert it into PF1 rules?

Just as easy/hard as converting anything from 1e/2e/4e/5e to PF1 is.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The only off putting thing for me with the AP is that the pawns will probably be out after the AP wraps up in 2020. I never liked this, I know the reasoning is because the artwork and whatever isn't ready to go right away for pawns but it makes little sense to have the pawns come out after the AP in my mind.

I have all the Pawns anyways from every set in Pathfinder/Starfinder so I'm sure I'll make do but it sure would be nice to have these at the beginning of AP's instead of after.

Silver Crusade

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

It makes a lot of sense, because running an AP until you have all 6 books isn't something you should be doing. It's only after you can read the entire campaign that you can properly calibrate it towards your group and avoid any funny situations where you let some important NPC die in book 1 only to discover, to your horror, that book 6 returns just to that NPC and he or she is super important for any reason.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This is very cool. Glad Paizo finally figured how to do a dragon themed AP.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

In case you missed it, James also revealed the titles and authors of all six parts of this adventure path:

Spoiler:

  • #145: Hellknight Hill, by Amanda Hamon
  • #146: Cult of Cinders, by Eleanor Ferron
  • #147: Tomorrow Must Burn, by Run Lundeen
  • #148: Fires of the Haunted City, by Linda Zayas-Palmer
  • #149: Against the Scarlet Triad, by John Compton
  • #150: Broken Promises, by Lyz Lidell (I think)

Silver Crusade

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

It's nice to see how the number of female AP writers has steadily increased over the last 10 years. The hobby is changing :)


Zaister wrote:

In case you missed it, James also revealed the titles and authors of all six parts of this adventure path:

** spoiler omitted **

The last one sounds more like Luis Loza to me.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
HTD wrote:
Zaister wrote:

In case you missed it, James also revealed the titles and authors of all six parts of this adventure path:

** spoiler omitted **
The last one sounds more like Luis Loza to me.

That is entirely possible. I was quite unsure what James said there.

Contributor

Yep, the last volume is Luis Loza!

Dark Archive

While i really love Pathfinder 1.0, the thing that pisses me off the most is the unrealistically low AC of enemies & NPCs.

I have to spend more and more hours to re-design the poorly designed stats of the opponents in the AP volumes.
This isn't the case in low level play, but the higher the level gets, the more apperant it gets.

In Starfinder the math is very tight and a +1 or +2 to hit from the envoy often makes the difference between hitting or not, as the opponents often have invested in a good armor.

In Pathfinder 1.0 enemies almost never invest in armor, whereas the players almost always do.

That leads to enemies hitting only on 18+ and martial players even hitting with a roll of 2.

If PF Second Edition can change that (like Starfinder did), it will be a big step towards me playing it instead.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Marco Massoudi wrote:

While i really love Pathfinder 1.0, the thing that pisses me off the most is the unrealistically low AC of enemies & NPCs.

I have to spend more and more hours to re-design the poorly designed stats of the opponents in the AP volumes.
This isn't the case in low level play, but the higher the level gets, the more apperant it gets.

In Starfinder the math is very tight and a +1 or +2 to hit from the envoy often makes the difference between hitting or not, as the opponents often have invested in a good armor.

In Pathfinder 1.0 enemies almost never invest in armor, whereas the players almost always do.

That leads to enemies hitting only on 18+ and martial players even hitting with a roll of 2.

If PF Second Edition can change that (like Starfinder did), it will be a big step towards me playing it instead.

I like how it takes a game with tight, working math for people to open their eyes to some inherent design flaws of 3.0/3.5/PF1.


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

Players invest in armor?

Not the way we do it, the next person to wear armor heavier than a chain shirt in one of our campaigns will be the first.


Marco Massoudi wrote:


In Starfinder the math is very tight and a +1 or +2 to hit from the envoy often makes the difference between hitting or not, as the opponents often have invested in a good armor.

How hard an NPC/monster is to hit in Starfinder has zero to do with what armor they are or are not wearing.

Dark Archive

Xenocrat wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:


In Starfinder the math is very tight and a +1 or +2 to hit from the envoy often makes the difference between hitting or not, as the opponents often have invested in a good armor.
How hard an NPC/monster is to hit in Starfinder has zero to do with what armor they are or are not wearing.

Riiight.

Ever heard of EAC & KAC? ;-)


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Marco Massoudi wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:


In Starfinder the math is very tight and a +1 or +2 to hit from the envoy often makes the difference between hitting or not, as the opponents often have invested in a good armor.
How hard an NPC/monster is to hit in Starfinder has zero to do with what armor they are or are not wearing.

Riiight.

Ever heard of EAC & KAC? ;-)

Even better, I've heard of the appendices to the Alien Archive. NPC armor has no role in determining EAC/KAC, it's just treasure. Only the assigned CR and combat role determines armor values on NPCs.

This thread will explain it.

Paizo Employee Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Zaister wrote:

In case you missed it, James also revealed the titles and authors of all six parts of this adventure path:

** spoiler omitted **

Run Lundeen? Is someone threatening me?


Zaister wrote:

In case you missed it, James also revealed the titles and authors of all six parts of this adventure path:

** spoiler omitted **

Can't wait to know more about the content of each of these volumes.

Spoiler:
I'm really hoping for articles about the two dragon deities, as well as maybe an ecology about the other dragon types.


Marco,

I guess I'm different because in Giantslayer I ALWAYS get hit and other than the ranger, no one really connects every time against an enemy. Except the magus but that's because of spells. (Fireball, fireball, fireball.)

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