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

3.60/5 (based on 28 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

"Age of Ashes" is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure and Chronicle sheet are available as a free download (761 kb zip/PDF).

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

Hero Lab Online
Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
Archives of Nethys

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3.60/5 (based on 28 ratings)

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Great for the first Adventure published in the system

4/5

This adventure definitely includes quite a few dungeon crawls that tend to run a little combat-heavy, but does include some more exploration or roleplay heavy sections in Breachill to break it up. I definitely encourage GMs to add more opportunities to address challenges with roleplay if that's what their group wants.

For a group of pretty new players (and brand new to this system), this was a nice entrance into Golarion that didn't require a lot of understanding about the rest of the setting.

The balance worked out well for my group, but I think several encounters could have gone a different way if the dice had rolled differently.

Breachill is a pretty generic settings, but has some pretty cool NPCs. Unfortunately, the pictures of all of those NPCs are spread throughout the back cover of the next 5 volumes of the adventure path, so it was quite a bit of work to collect them to show to my players. My party especially liked the town council, only 2/5 get roles in the story at all.

I think think this compares negatively to the second volume in the adventure, but overall I liked this quite a bit compared to modules I've ran or played in other systems.


Turned out pretty ok

3/5

You will run this as a very linear adventure. The Citadel is well done, the NPCs likable. Breachhill itself and its citizens are a bit boring and the descriptions in the back don't really lead to a lot of possible custom quests. Some say it has too much combat, but for my group it was fine. Overall an ok start.


A good start

4/5

This is the first adventure I've ever GMed, and i thought it went well. issues with balance and grind as others have pointed out are present, but not overly glaring. My players enjoyed it and i think the overall story of the AP is really good, and I'm looking forward to continue through the rest of it.


First Time GM

3/5

This was my first time running an AP, although I did wind up starting and finishing book 1 of a Starfinder AP while in the process of running this book. I had run a few PFS scenarios before this, but did not otherwise have much experience as a GM before running this.

Overall I was satisfied with it and think my players enjoyed their time and are looking forward to book 2. I did not find it difficult to run besides a minor plot hole or two. I really liked the town of Breachill as there is a fun cast of NPCs to interact with the PCs when they're in town, and there is some nice artwork to go along with it. Some of the villager artwork is tucked away at the end of subsequent books though as a heads up.

Overall the citadel felt like a bit of a grind. Even though I was using mile-stone leveling (which felt like it worked really well) I was wary of deviating from the module so I basically included every combat. If I were to do it over, I would remove a lot of the filler combats that just don't really matter.

I think my biggest criticism is that although the book has some nice story points and a fairly solid ending, the villains pretty uniformly struck me as underwhelming if you run them exactly as written. I might have overly high expectations, but I just didn't think any of the antagonists had a coherent plan or goal which makes it hard to take them seriously. Luckily(?) my players tended to cut them all down without bothering to ask them any tricky questions like 'how exactly did you think that would work?'.

My other gripe is that most of the battle maps were very cramped. My group had two fighters, so body blocking in all the narrow passages and then just using Attack of Opportunity to hack anything trying to get to the squishier backline characters made a lot of the fights feel pretty flat.

There was however one map with a lot of verticality that I would like to praise. It was essentially a map with three multi-level, fancy tree houses to fight over. The distance math on ranges of spell effects got a bit complicated, but the players really had a great time putting together a plan of attack and then (attempting) to execute it. So that fight really shined as a high note in the adventure.

Overall would recommend and the overall story seems interesting.


Uninspired dungeon crawling

2/5

I enjoyed spending some time in Isger between #1-05 in PFS, Fall of Plaguestone, and this AP volume.

That said, Hellknight Hill feels like the most forced of the lot. It's paint by numbers to remind you that goblins are good now, bunch of combat so that you can try out 2E monsters, and sets up the rest of the AP.

I enjoyed playing through it as a completionist, but once more APs come out I think this intro won't compare to the newer entries.


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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 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.

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.

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

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.


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.

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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