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

3.50/5 (based on 19 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!

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

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3.50/5 (based on 19 ratings)

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Not a strong showing for the first AP installment of 2E

1/5

I'm disappointed in this first installment of the Age of Ashes AP, and fear what this portends for 2nd Edition Pathfinder adventures.

First, the positives:

- The basic premise of the adventure is fine, and the overarching plot of the AP is intriguing enough.
- The maps are high quality and fit the module well, being more evocative of place than any of the writing.
- The art is generally well done, although mismatched to descriptions at times, and paling in comparison to that used in the Core Rulebook and Bestiary of 2E.
- The author does a good job anticipating the mechanics that can be used in various situations and giving the possible results, though there's a bit of an over-reliance here. Sometimes, if there's no real uncertainty, it's ok to just give a result without a meaningless dieroll.
- The interaction with Alak is very well done, and I especially like the ways you can curry his favor.
- The varying histories of Breachill was a creative touch.
- The Adventure Toolbox in the back of the module is very useful and well done. It's meant as a fluid amalgamation of the end-of-module pieces in 1E paths (bestiary, religions, institutions, etc.). Especially well done is Mengkare's story.

Now on to the issues:

- Writing is utilitarian and functional at best, with basic, un-evocative prose.
- Where is the city statblock for Breachill? Depressing that city statblocks have apparently been dropped.
- Ham-handed goblin-inclusion narrative, complete with "puppy-dog eyes" on illustrations of goblins. Apparently, everyone is completely comfortable around goblins, despite the Goblinblood Wars having taken place a mere 20 years ago. Compare that to the (at times) militant passion many residents feel about the town's founder, who left 170 years ago.
- Villains seem utterly incompetent, with nonsensical decisions and choices built into the plot.
- Nonsensical treasure inclusion in ruined citadel (ex A3, Bugbear has +7 Perception but misses treasure in its lair), with far too much of value left behind by the supposedly organized and vigilant Order of the Nail.
- Description for Alak doesn't match art - he's carrying a greatsword, not a halberd. He's also not wearing full Hellknight armor, though the picture depicts him doing so.
- The usual and unfortunate Paizo gender activism is present, with the vast majority of the "leaders" in the module being female for some reason, detracting from the verisimilitude of the setting. (-1 star)
- The feel of the module is very cutesy, with winsome kobolds as comedic relief, doe-eyed cuddly goblins, etc.
- Plot points are communicated in an overly simplistic manner, seeming spelled out in large, bold letters by characters, monsters, and notes conveniently left behind. It almost feels as if this was written for a child.
- The whole adventure has a feel of innocence (think G or possibly PG rating) and does a poor job of conveying any uncomfortable emotions, such as menace, dread, foreboding, mystery, thrill, or even drama.
- No return of the Pathfinder's Journal, which IMO was one of the real strengths of 1E adventure paths until its unfortunate demise. The Journal often succeeded in setting mood and tone better even than the adventures themselves and gave keen insights into the lore of Golarion.
- Breachill comes off as a very bland town, save for its ancient history. There is almost a dismissive lack of attention to detail with the town, as if players won't care or be interested, or as if gamemasters should do it all themselves. No, that's why we buy these products.

Basically, Hellknight Hill is a very bland module. This is becoming a recurring theme for Pathfinder, and I surmise this may be due to fear of making even a single player troubled with portrayals of any type of uncomfortable emotion. To me, this is like a chef who is overly fearful of making a dish too spicy for his customers and goes to the opposite extreme. So what we are left with here is a bland mush, where everything feels the same and nothing stands out. There is no "truth" or special character to a place or person - everything regresses to the mean, in the apparent name of safety and not offending anyone.

It didn't have to be this way though. The aforementioned Mengkare's story is full of flavor, obscure lore, and riveting plot. However, this all gets lost in translation in the execution of the actual adventure itself.

In conclusion, as the first AP for a new edition of the game, Hellknight Hill pales in comparison to Burnt Offerings, many people's first experience with 1E, and makes me yearn for the early writing of Jacobs, Schneider, Vaughan, and Pett.

Compare as well to 5E's maiden offering, Mines of Phandelver - a flavorful adventure full of interesting NPCs, and numerous side-quests and factions.

I'm hopeful, but not expectant, for better showings in future installments.


Really not a fan

1/5

Whelp had written out an entire review just to have the forum eat it so I'll keep this brief

-Hate the new book layout

-Really dislike the overarching Ap plot as presented in the book specifically regarding the main antagonist

- Hate the 'Goblins' in the book (May as well be halflings with a green paint and big ear fetish)


Loved it!

4/5

*Disclaimer--have read the book, not ran the adventure

Loved Hellknight Hill. I found the story was engaging and intriguing, the encounters were interesting and varied and it just seemed like it would be really fun to run.

I really enjoyed the new format of the Adventures Toolkit--seems a much more natural grouping of information than the old system of (sometimes disparate) support articles.

I did have some qualms about some of the adventure elements (like the proximity of Citadel Altarein to Breachill, the abundance of monsters inside said Citadel and the number of "secret" entrances to the citadel seemed excessive). But those things were relatively minor and easy to change when I run it myself.

Also the art! Loved the new full-page art pieces in the adventure and the character art for Voz.
Look forward to reading the next one!


Not worth my money...

2/5

I have to say I was very disappointed in this adventure. I loved the town map and the full-page illustration of the citadel, and I thought a few the new monsters in the toolbox section were interesting. However, if you ask me, that's pretty much all the positive stuff in Hellknight Hill.

First of all, I think the maps are just weird and don't fit the adventure at all. Angled rooms that make no sense, angles passages for no purpose other than to probably make them look outlandish and exotic, kitchen with no cellar stairs or access to pantry (for some reason you have to cross the training hall to get supplies), mess hall right next to a small lecture hall, very small towers that are only two floors high... and so on. Not to mention that the layout of the citadel looks more like a grounded spaceship than a Hellknight castle, and unfortunately it does not look anything like the illustration, which makes it pointless to show that cool picture to players.

What's even worse is that the cartographer has done terrible work with the maps, making them look really ugly. In my opinion these are amateurish maps that don't belong in a Paizo adventure path module.

There are a few interesting encounters and monsters, but I still feel I did not get enough "bang for my buck" with Hellknight Hill. I truly hope the next adventures will be better it terms of writing, design and maps.


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Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

On a scale of 1 to a steamer trunk full, how many dragon miniatures should I have to run this AP?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

13 people marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:
I guess we'll see when part 6 gets released in 2020.

In fact, people will all see when part 1 gets released in 2019, since we've got a pretty detailed GM supplement in that volume to help folks run the game.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
I guess we'll see when part 6 gets released in 2020.
In fact, people will all see when part 1 gets released in 2019, since we've got a pretty detailed GM supplement in that volume to help folks run the game.

and even if we didn't, part 6 is coming out this year...

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Enlight_Bystand wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
I guess we'll see when part 6 gets released in 2020.
In fact, people will all see when part 1 gets released in 2019, since we've got a pretty detailed GM supplement in that volume to help folks run the game.
and even if we didn't, part 6 is coming out this year...

January, unless they’re doing a double month.


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

I think they are shifting the start of APs so that they are now July – December and January – June. Technically, the Second Edition products are part of the July releases, with only their street date delayed by one week.


Rysky wrote:
Enlight_Bystand wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
I guess we'll see when part 6 gets released in 2020.
In fact, people will all see when part 1 gets released in 2019, since we've got a pretty detailed GM supplement in that volume to help folks run the game.
and even if we didn't, part 6 is coming out this year...
January, unless they’re doing a double month.

They are. Hellknight Hill comes out at the same time as Midwives to Death.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
HTD wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Enlight_Bystand wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
I guess we'll see when part 6 gets released in 2020.
In fact, people will all see when part 1 gets released in 2019, since we've got a pretty detailed GM supplement in that volume to help folks run the game.
and even if we didn't, part 6 is coming out this year...
January, unless they’re doing a double month.
They are. Hellknight Hill comes out at the same time as Midwives to Death.

I was referring to a double for Age of Ashes.

Dark Archive

AGE OF ASHES: momentary intended release dates:

1: Hellknight Hill (august 1st)
2: Cult of Cinders (august 28th)
3: Tomorrow must burn (sept 18th)
4: Fires of the Haunted City (oct 16th)
5: Against the scarlet Triad (nov 13th)
6: Broken Promises (december 11th)

I expect the august volumes to be punctual.
The others could maybe move a week back.


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

Street date for Paizo products is usually the last Wednesday of the month, so more likely:

Part 1: Hellknight Hill – August 1 (exception, July product)
Part 2: Cult of Cinders – August 28
Part 3: Tomorrow must burn – September 25
Part 4: Fires of the Haunted City – October 30
Part 5: Against the scarlet Triad – November 27
Part 6: Broken Promises – December 26 (possibly a week later due to Christmas)


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

Based on past experience, the street dates for November and December should come before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, so my best guess would be November 20th and December 19th for the last two.


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

Ah, that makes sense. Sorry, as a European, I didn't even have Thanksgiving on my radar.


Thank you James Jacobs for reminding me that each opener will have a short summary of each other book.

Also I thought it was 2020 because I wasn't sure if there was enough time left in 2019 for Paizo to fit in ALL of this before the start of 2020.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

18 people marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:

Thank you James Jacobs for reminding me that each opener will have a short summary of each other book.

Also I thought it was 2020 because I wasn't sure if there was enough time left in 2019 for Paizo to fit in ALL of this before the start of 2020.

Starting with Age of Ashes, each part 1 of our Adventure Paths will have more than a "short summary" of the rest of the campaign, but will have several pages of additional information and notes to help GMs prepare.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:

Thank you James Jacobs for reminding me that each opener will have a short summary of each other book.

Also I thought it was 2020 because I wasn't sure if there was enough time left in 2019 for Paizo to fit in ALL of this before the start of 2020.

Starting with Age of Ashes, each part 1 of our Adventure Paths will have more than a "short summary" of the rest of the campaign, but will have several pages of additional information and notes to help GMs prepare.

This is excellent news as Age of Ashes will be the first Adventure Path that I will run as it is published.

Liberty's Edge

Will this one go to 20th lvl?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Paladinosaur wrote:
Will this one go to 20th lvl?

Apparently, the answer to that question is supposed to be "Yes" for the duration of 2nd edition.


All APs have been said to be envisioned to go from 1st to 20th level starting with Age of Ashes, a different pattern will be an exception in PF2E.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

So not only will PCs get to go the distance, GMs will now get MORE info so they can make a clearer determination of what each chapter will entail.

Good move Paizo guys. Good move.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Starfinder has sections of their AP books dedicated to lore that -could- be valuable to lore nerds like myself. If I were a player, I would be very tempted to purchase the Starfinder AP books and thumb through the backmatter.

Is this the case for the Pathfinder AP books as well? If it's just flavor to help a GM, I'm skipping it as a player. But if it's interesting lore and helps set the tone or provide tangential details... then I will probably buy them to use backmatter to add color for successful bardic knowledge rolls, for example.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

6 people marked this as a favorite.

I removed a derail about product release information.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

We got the updated product descriptions for the last four volumes, so could we get the descriptions for the first two, please? I'm really anxious to know the articles we are getting in those.

Scarab Sages

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I think helping the goblins is going to be a nice inversion and callback to Burnt Offerings.


We actually got the updated product description for part 2 of Extinction Curse, however, we know nothing about the very first Adventure Path volume's additional content (articles and monsters)...

Knowing it would be great, really. =/


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hrm, I got the shipping notice, but the PDF isn't available for download. What gives?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
magnuskn wrote:
Hrm, I got the shipping notice, but the PDF isn't available for download. What gives?

The release of this month's pdfs is being delayed until 1 August due to the release of second edition at Gencon (August 1-4). There's a thread on it here somewhere — in the Customer Service forum, I think.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Here is the thread Ed Reppert mentioned.


magnuskn wrote:
Hrm, I got the shipping notice, but the PDF isn't available for download. What gives?

I'm pretty sure this is a joke. XD

... right?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Hrm, I got the shipping notice, but the PDF isn't available for download. What gives?

I'm pretty sure this is a joke. XD

... right?

It is not. PDFs for Second Edition products will become available on August 1. See the thread linked by Franz above.


Zaister wrote:
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Hrm, I got the shipping notice, but the PDF isn't available for download. What gives?

I'm pretty sure this is a joke. XD

... right?

It is not. PDFs for Second Edition products will become available on August 1. See the thread linked by Franz above.

Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. I was actually referring to him expecting the pdfs earlier as a joke. I mean, Paizo wouldn't put their new product before the release.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
Zaister wrote:
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Hrm, I got the shipping notice, but the PDF isn't available for download. What gives?

I'm pretty sure this is a joke. XD

... right?

It is not. PDFs for Second Edition products will become available on August 1. See the thread linked by Franz above.
Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. I was actually referring to him expecting the pdfs earlier as a joke. I mean, Paizo wouldn't put their new product before the release.

This is the first ever volume of the AP where they have done this - I believe the only book that they’ve done this for in the past is the 1st ed core book.

So it’s not an unreasonable query.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

3 people marked this as a favorite.

As a quick reminder, if you have a subscription to a line that has a release in this month July 2019's cycle that qualifies for a complimentary PDF, that PDF is currently just placeholder text. It will be updated on August 1st.

Scarab Sages

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

Which timezone are you marking as the start of this August 1? Eastern, Pacific, UTC, other?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
logic_poet wrote:
Which timezone are you marking as the start of this August 1? Eastern, Pacific, UTC, other?

It's generally when the doors open at GenCon. I don't remember the exact time, but it should be morning Central Time, I believe.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Bracing for the final countdown


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Joana wrote:
logic_poet wrote:
Which timezone are you marking as the start of this August 1? Eastern, Pacific, UTC, other?
It's generally when the doors open at GenCon. I don't remember the exact time, but it should be morning Central Time, I believe.

I was too lazy last night to go looking for it, but I remembered Vic had given a time and it is here.

Vic Wertz wrote:
Diego Valdez wrote:
The kiosk will have the same hours as the exhibit hall. So it will open at 10am. There is no early VIP access to the kiosk. If you ave that it needs to be done in the exhibit hall.
Gen Con is no longer providing early access to the exhibit hall as part of their VIG program. It'll be 10 AM for *everyone* this year.

However, I thought Indianapolis was in the Central Time Zone, but turns out Indiana's just over the line into the Eastern Time Zone. So, 10 AM Eastern Daylight Time, August 1st.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

That explains the 7 a.m. PDT time to go live for 2e.aonprd.com.

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