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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3.40/5 (based on 18 ratings)

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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 Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Ron Lundeen 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 **
Run Lundeen? Is someone threatening me?

Please excuse the typo! :)


How soon after release would this be made available on Roll20 like War for the Crown and Rise of the Runelords? I'm really looking forward to being able to run this, but my main playgroup is online-only due to living all across the coastal US.


I'd like to know as well as I do all my games over there, though I remember from the team saying or posting that VTT's will get access as a priority, I think from one of the Twitch vids if I'm not mistaken.

Roll20 has about 4 million as a player/GM base so a pretty big audience there so fingers crossed this will be available day one, as well as the single module Fall of Plaguestone, then Kingmaker Com AP for PF II as well :)

Tom


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Rysky wrote:
WILL THERE BE PLAYER'S GUIDES???

Of course.

Hellknight rules won't be in the Age of Ashes player's guide, but we'll have those rules out very soon. Playing a Hellknight in Age of Ashes should be interesting.

As for exactly WHAT is going into the Player's Guide... I can't say yet because I haven't yet written it. I've got more ideas in it than are responsible to include in it, of course. I'll likely aim to keep it pretty simple and short so that...

...A) It doesn't kill an already incredibly busy editorial department here, and...

...B) Doesn't overwhelm players with too many new options, when everyone's gonna still be focusing on the options in the Core rules.

I know it's a bit later on than this original post, and you can't really reveal too much in specifics, but say we want to run the first book of the AP within a few weeks of the 2e release. Any chance the "very soon" will encompass this? I would really love to let my players play one, and worst comes to worst I'll just let them play a fighter or paladin and reskin things until official rules come out. Any possible insight you could grant? Thanks!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Sanguine Lupus wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Rysky wrote:
WILL THERE BE PLAYER'S GUIDES???

Of course.

Hellknight rules won't be in the Age of Ashes player's guide, but we'll have those rules out very soon. Playing a Hellknight in Age of Ashes should be interesting.

As for exactly WHAT is going into the Player's Guide... I can't say yet because I haven't yet written it. I've got more ideas in it than are responsible to include in it, of course. I'll likely aim to keep it pretty simple and short so that...

...A) It doesn't kill an already incredibly busy editorial department here, and...

...B) Doesn't overwhelm players with too many new options, when everyone's gonna still be focusing on the options in the Core rules.

I know it's a bit later on than this original post, and you can't really reveal too much in specifics, but say we want to run the first book of the AP within a few weeks of the 2e release. Any chance the "very soon" will encompass this? I would really love to let my players play one, and worst comes to worst I'll just let them play a fighter or paladin and reskin things until official rules come out. Any possible insight you could grant? Thanks!

You'll need to let them reskin.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Sanguine Lupus wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Rysky wrote:
WILL THERE BE PLAYER'S GUIDES???

Of course.

Hellknight rules won't be in the Age of Ashes player's guide, but we'll have those rules out very soon. Playing a Hellknight in Age of Ashes should be interesting.

As for exactly WHAT is going into the Player's Guide... I can't say yet because I haven't yet written it. I've got more ideas in it than are responsible to include in it, of course. I'll likely aim to keep it pretty simple and short so that...

...A) It doesn't kill an already incredibly busy editorial department here, and...

...B) Doesn't overwhelm players with too many new options, when everyone's gonna still be focusing on the options in the Core rules.

I know it's a bit later on than this original post, and you can't really reveal too much in specifics, but say we want to run the first book of the AP within a few weeks of the 2e release. Any chance the "very soon" will encompass this? I would really love to let my players play one, and worst comes to worst I'll just let them play a fighter or paladin and reskin things until official rules come out. Any possible insight you could grant? Thanks!
You'll need to let them reskin.

Sounds good! Thanks for the response, and keep up the great work! I'm hyped for the new ed, and your appearances on PF Friday are always fun!


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

When will we get information about parts 2-6 of Age of Ashes? At PaizoCon possibly?

Dark Archive

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Fumarole wrote:
When will we get information about parts 2-6 of Age of Ashes? At PaizoCon possibly?

2: "Cult of Cinders" by Eleanor Ferron Expected August 2019

3: "Tomorrow Must Burn" by Ron Lundeen Expected September 2019
4: "Fires of the Haunted City" by Linda Zayas-Palmer Expected October 2019
5: "Against the Scarlet Triad" by John Compton Expected November 2019
6: "Broken Promises" by Luis Loza Expected December 2019


I guess we'll probably see those once we get closer to July...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

4 people marked this as a favorite.

We'll absolutely have more info about Age of Ashes and more at Paizocon.


By more do you mean the next AP after Ages of Ashes?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:
By more do you mean the next AP after Ages of Ashes?

Yes. Traditionally, we've announced the first AP of the coming year at PaizoCon, and the second AP of the coming year at Gen Con.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
We'll absolutely have more info about Age of Ashes and more at Paizocon.

That's great Mr. Jacobs! I'm really hyped for this AP!

Hope there're lots of dragon themed articles to make it more immersive, just as there were lots of giant related articles in Giantslayers. Especially one article for each of the two dragon deities. *-*

Hope to see dragons using their high intellect rather than brute force as well... But that seems to be the case.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

The Gold Sovereign wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
We'll absolutely have more info about Age of Ashes and more at Paizocon.

That's great Mr. Jacobs! I'm really hyped for this AP!

Hope there're lots of dragon themed articles to make it more immersive, just as there were lots of giant related articles in Giantslayers. Especially one article for each of the two dragon deities. *-*

Hope to see dragons using their high intellect rather than brute force as well... But that seems to be the case.

You'll want to check Inner Sea Faiths for articles on Dahak and Apsu. Since we've already done those articles, they won't be revisited in this Adventure Path.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Can anyone say Dragon Egg?


James Jacobs wrote:
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
We'll absolutely have more info about Age of Ashes and more at Paizocon.

That's great Mr. Jacobs! I'm really hyped for this AP!

Hope there're lots of dragon themed articles to make it more immersive, just as there were lots of giant related articles in Giantslayers. Especially one article for each of the two dragon deities. *-*

Hope to see dragons using their high intellect rather than brute force as well... But that seems to be the case.

You'll want to check Inner Sea Faiths for articles on Dahak and Apsu. Since we've already done those articles, they won't be revisited in this Adventure Path.

Oh,I see. That makes sense, really. I was just thinking there could be something new for the followers of the dragon gods using 2E rules, but I suppose there're other ways to cover this.


In that case, I hope there'll be official stats for their heralds in the bestiary section.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
Oh,I see. That makes sense, really. I was just thinking there could be something new for the followers of the dragon gods using 2E rules, but I suppose there're other ways to cover this.

There will be, but later. This adventure path isn't a great choice for PC dragon god worshipers, so it doesn't make sense to have that be a big part of Age of Ashes.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

1 person marked this as a favorite.
HTD wrote:
In that case, I hope there'll be official stats for their heralds in the bestiary section.

Nope; sorry. The bestiary for this Adventure Path has to do some extra heavy lifting to support monsters that show up in the actual adventures, and heralds of the dragon gods aren't on that list.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Didn't see anything in the comments about it, but will this AP include any flip maps? Or will there be a flip map pack available for purchase relatively soon after launch?

I REALLY love the custom flip maps and all the maps Paizo come out with, and would love to have all of them ready to bust out, rather than having to crudely draw them on a dry erase board.

Dark Archive

Shwaazi wrote:

Didn't see anything in the comments about it, but will this AP include any flip maps? Or will there be a flip map pack available for purchase relatively soon after launch?

I REALLY love the custom flip maps and all the maps Paizo come out with, and would love to have all of them ready to bust out, rather than having to crudely draw them on a dry erase board.

Sadly there will be no flip-mats for Age of Ashes.

There is no word about a map-pack yet.
I expect more info at Paizocon on the weekend.

Dark Archive

5 people marked this as a favorite.

From Paizocon reveal:

First new 2e AP: Age of Ashes - starts near hell knight fortress in Isgir(sp?). Starts in July.

2nd AP: Extinction Curse. Starts January- June. Based on Aroden’s rising of the Starstone and whatnot. Something might try to sink the Isle of Kortos...and the party might start as circus performers.

Thanks to Painlord!


When will the rest of the adventure path be shown on the website?

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

We'll probably get some new items added to the shop next week after everyone is recovered from PaizoCon.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Cori Marie wrote:
We'll probably get some new items added to the shop next week after everyone is recovered from PaizoCon.

Given how hoarse some of the Paizo people have sounded over the last few days, even a few days more to overcome con-crud.


I really hope the Ashen Man from Doomsday Dawn will be making an appearance in this AP.

Liberty's Edge

Marco Massoudi wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
When will we get information about parts 2-6 of Age of Ashes? At PaizoCon possibly?

1: "Hellknight Hill" by Amanda Hammon Expected July 2019

2: "Cult of Cinders" by Eleanor Ferron Expected August 2019
3: "Tomorrow Must Burn" by Ron Lundeen Expected September 2019
4: "Fires of the Haunted City" by Linda Zayas-Palmer Expected October 2019
5: "Against the Scarlet Triad" by John Compton Expected November 2019
6: "Broken Promises" by Luis Loza Expected December 2019

It is worth observing there here, as with the first Starfinder AP Dead Suns the entire first Adventure Path for the new rules system is being written in-house at Paizo. Every single one of the authors of Age of Ashes works in The Pit.

From a practical perspective, this means that Paizo did not have the added complexity and difficulty of changing the rules at the same time as having to communicate those rule changes to freelance AP authors. From a practical standpoint, looking to freelancers for the first AP of a rules system that has not been released yet just won't work.

And even with the second PF2 AP, which will feature freelance authors, it's still going to very much be a case where the freelance authors contracted to write those volumes are still largely going to be "at sea".

I don't think we will witness the power of the fully operational Pathfinder Adventure Path until early 2021. By that time, the new rules will be fully integrated into the thinking of freelancers.

Mind you, in my experience, so many of Paizo's freelancers are in the "Adventure Author" sub-genre of RPG fans. Very few of them play regularly and even fewer GM regularly. This can be a problem in integrating a new rules system into the adventure design (yes, this is what development passes are for, but still.)

I do hope Paizo, in assigning the first volume of the new PF2 AP to Amanda Hammon leaves this poor woman with a better assignment than the one she got for Dead Suns Vol 3. I am dead certain she can write better than the Procrustean Mess of an AP volume that Splintered Worlds ended up as a result of Starfinder RPG's development. (Personally, I'd have keyed Rob McCreary's car over being stuck with my name on Dead Suns 3!)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Steel_Wind wrote:
I don't think we will witness the power of the fully operational Pathfinder Adventure Path ...

*Darth Vader voice* I find your lack of faith...disturbing...

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Dead Suns Book 3 was the best volume of the entire AP - Eox was liked best by everyone who took part in the game (8 different people).
So i amactually looking forward to "Hellknight Hill".

What is very true, is that almost every first adventure for a new rules set ends up bad rules-wise in retrospective (Council of Thieves for PF 1.0 is the same level of bad rules as Hoard of the Dragon Queen for D&D 5e imo).

I am not worried about Paizo publishing a bad story, but i am worried about Paizo publishing a bad rules set.


I'm mostly just waiting to see how it all pans out in 5 years time if they'll update PF2 sort like how we get Pathfinder Unchained a while back.

But for this? I'm totally down for exploring Citadel Altaerein. It seems like a nice place to go visit...I mean maybe? ;)

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path: Cult of Cinders (Age of Ashes part 2 of 6)
is also supposed to be an august 2019 release.
That product has no product page and is still missing from the release schedule page.
I think it is the only missing one for august, though.


I'm assuming having no lead web designer might be part of the problem Marco.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'll be honest, what I've read so far about this AP reads a bit like "Golarion: World Tour", where the point of the AP is to show as many locations as possible. Not that I don't appreciate a return to Ravounel, though I'd have rather seen what's going on with Ameiko. :p

Dark Archive

I mean it is more of Inner Sea world tour since I don't think you visit Casmaron, Arcadia or Tian Xia? Or parts of Garund in the south


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, you're probably right about that.

Dark Archive

Aaand seems like border theming this time is fire and chains :D


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I'm liking that art.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oh good Mersiel has her old style footware thats a relief.


The colors for the AP and the cover are perfectly awesome. Dahak is fearsome indeed. I hope we get to face him in other adventures again. And by him I mean his followers, not the god himself... ^^'

Silver Crusade

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

Niiiiiiiiiiiiice!


I approve of having three things I love, fire, skeletons (possibly even Skeletal CHampions), and dragons. Also the chains are a nice touch too.

I love this cover. :)


magnuskn wrote:
I'll be honest, what I've read so far about this AP reads a bit like "Golarion: World Tour", where the point of the AP is to show as many locations as possible. Not that I don't appreciate a return to Ravounel, though I'd have rather seen what's going on with Ameiko. :p

AND

CorvusMask" wrote:
I mean it is more of Inner Sea world tour since I don't think you visit Casmaron, Arcadia or Tian Xia? Or parts of Garund in the south

Now I want to see an AP in which the PCs are in a band that tours Golarion (or at least the Inner Sea region) . . . .


Pathfinder Card Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
UnArcaneElection wrote:


Now I want to see an AP in which the PCs are in a band that tours Golarion (or at least the Inner Sea region) . . . .

The band-thing is pretty close to the theme of the second AP if I remember what was told on PaizoCon correctly


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Jorsalheim wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:


Now I want to see an AP in which the PCs are in a band that tours Golarion (or at least the Inner Sea region) . . . .
The band-thing is pretty close to the theme of the second AP if I remember what was told on PaizoCon correctly

Traveling circus. Exclusively on the Isle of Kortos. And the AP apparently never actually goes to Absalom.


But do they get to play "We're an Absalom band?" *hums tune by Grand Funk Railroad...*


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

Interesting to see that "Adventure Path" is no longer part of the Pathfinder logo, and only appears rather small next to the AP name.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
The Gold Sovereign wrote:

It sounds like an amazing AP.

I'm anxious to see what comes next, after we have "concluded" our fight against two of our greatest enemies (the Runelords and the Tyrant) one after the other.

Will the evolution of Pathfinder give us an even greater enemy to fear?

I hope so. It IS someone you folks already know, after all. Mwa ha ha.

My money is on Daralathyxl, the so called "Sixth King of the Mountains"

:P


I'm unsure if everyone knows the name of the evil cult we are going up against, so spoilers ahead.

Spoiler:
The Scarlet Triad is probably lead by a trio of red, and I was thinking Daralathyxl was going to be among them, but...

It was said at the PaizoCon that we might be able to reason with the BigBad.

Daralathyxl is probably the oldest and mightiest dragon of all Avistan, he is already an emperor and to some he could be said to be a god. I'm sure it's nearly impossible to convince him he is wrong and that he would reduce anyone trying to say those words to ashes...

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
The Gold Sovereign wrote:

...

It was said at the PaizoCon that we might be able to reason with the BigBad.
...

I think it could be Mengkare.

Promise, the only city of note on Hermea, is surrounded by high red sandstone walls, so I'd be unsuprised if that's the setting for the sixth adventure.


I guess we'll see when part 6 gets released in 2020.

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