Pathfinder Adventure Path #172: Secrets of the Temple-City (Strength of Thousands 4 of 6)

4.30/5 (based on 3 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #172: Secrets of the Temple-City (Strength of Thousands 4 of 6)

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From the Necropolis to the Lost City! As trusted teachers at the Magaambya school of magic, the heroes are sent on a delicate diplomatic mission to a city ruled by an evil mummy-god. During these negotiations, the heroes unearth the location of a wondrous hidden village that needs the Magaambya's knowledge and protection. But the mummy-god's military is on the march. If the heroes can't thwart the army, it will plunder the village's treasures and unleash an ancient evil contained since the world was covered in darkness!

"Secrets of the Temple-City" is a Pathfinder adventure for four 12th-level characters by Luis Loza. This adventure continues the Strength of Thousands Adventure Path, a six-part, monthly campaign in which the heroes rise from humble students to influential teachers, and ultimately decide the fate of the Magaambya. This adventure also details the other teachers that are the heroes' peers and presents a comprehensive look at Walkena, the evil child mummy-god of Mzali. New monsters, new magic, and new diplomatic options provide a bounty of opportunities for adventure!

Each monthly full-color softcover Pathfinder Adventure Path volume contains an in-depth adventure scenario, stats for several new monsters, and support articles meant to give Game Masters additional material to expand their campaign. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes use the Open Game License and work with both the Pathfinder RPG and the world's oldest fantasy RPG.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-375-1

The Strength of Thousands Adventure Path is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure and Chronicle Sheets are available as a free download (954 KB PDF).

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

Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
Roll20 Virtual Tabletop
Archives of Nethys

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3/5


An Amazing AP for RP-focused groups

5/5

(This is a holistic review that’s been written for the AP as a whole, excepting the 6th book which has been delayed for shipping delays.)

Although I love Paizo APs, there are certain features of them that have always felt a bit awkward .

1. Most APs will bring the PCs from level 1-20 in a matter of months. It’s hard to square this with typical fictional narratives, where one becomes a mighty wizard, or the world’s best swordsman, over decades of study and experience.

2. When it gets to higher level play, many APs at least partially fail to appropriately justify the higher-level challenges that the PCs face in a way that feels appropriately epic. (For one of the most glaring examples of this, the last book of Age of Ashes has the PCs dealing with level 19(!) city guards.)

3. And pretty much every AP is written with the implicit assumption that the PCs will resolve most encounters violently, with enemies fighting to the death, and the PCs expected to wrack up an impressive body count along the way.

In light of all of this, the Strength of Thousands AP feels like a breath of fresh air. Advancement takes place at a narratively satisfying rate. Years can pass between levels, and the players are doing things in the meantime that lend themselves to the fiction of advancement and improving their knowledge and magical abilities.

The higher level books really “amp up” as the party gains levels. The first book *feels* like a book with challenges for students, the second and third books feel like books with challenges for competent teachers, and the fourth and fifth books are appropriately epic — books four and five have the PCs doing more epic things than many book six adventures of other APs.

And the book assumes and incentivizes peaceful resolutions to a much broader range of encounters than any previous AP I can think of. And when violence is likely to occur, the books generally incentivize non-lethal approaches to dealing with enemies.

Add to that a sea of interesting and detailed NPCs for the PCs to engage with, and this is a perfect AP for role-play focused groups, and groups that really enjoy digging into the downtime aspects of the game, and building lives for their characters that stretch beyond their martial prowess.

The Mwangi Expanse was one of Paizo's best lore books. I’m grateful to see that it's been paired with one of Paizo’s best APs!


The strongest AP volume of 2e so far

5/5

This volume is a killer achievement, and a testament to Luis Loza's considerable chops.

Strength of Thousands' particular focus on adventurers who have a gentle touch than the average wandering slayers sees its greatest test yet: a diplomatic mission to Mzali, a xenophobic city-state under the command of a vicious, self-obsessed child-mummy-god and the cruel sycophants who serve him, in an attempt to persuade them to soften their hold on the people who live under them. This might chafe for any group's keen to kick in the doors and kill all these Lawful Evil jerks (and the book does seem to tease such a story will be told someday!), this is instead a mix of social intrigue, trying to impress valuable local leaders into aiding your efforts and prompting variable reforms that represent a significant shift in Mzali for the setting going forward. I love the chance to rub shoulders with contemptible servants of the child-god; each has unique priorities and encounters, and memorable rewards - I'm especially fond of the chance for the heroes to be rewarded with a free assassination attempt on anyone they wish!

The volume has an interesting dungeon crawl that doesn't overstay its welcome, with some neat ties into deeper lore for the region to be discovered and varied encounters inside. There's yet another chance for a peaceful resolution with a group most APs would simply present as monsters to be killed. I won't spoil the ending of this portion, but there's a notable and permanent change to the setting at the end that instantly had me clamoring for future stories and characters centered around it.

The final third of the adventure is a trip to a notable locale from the Mwangi Expanse book, where the players have a chance to do some wondrous research and meet some really special NPCs. This location is then laid siege to by a number of very frightening foes, with the PCs taking the chance to take place in a massive battle in ways that will make them feel like superheroes. Enemies are weird and fascinating, and seem like an absolute blast to DM. There's two particular options in this dramatic climax opened up by possible player choices in the diplomatic portion earlier that had me grinning ear-to-ear; I envy any groups that get to utilize them.

The backmatter gives us teacher profiles in the same style as the students in Book 1, and continue to be evocative, fleshed-out individuals, many of whom are very easy to read as subtle, sincere neurodivergent representation; I adore the entire cast of this AP. It's so refreshing to see so many Black NPCs treated so well in fantasy roleplaying! We also get an expansion to the Bright Lion archetype from LO: Legends and a handful of fun, weird monsters in the bestiary.

Strength of Thousands feels like 2e hitting its stride, and Secrets of the Temple-City is the best it's had to offer yet. Some groups might chafe at the idea of "playing nice" with the villains encountered in part 1, but for those who accept the terms of the adventure, the reward is some of the most unique play Pathfinder has to offer. I can't wait to see if this AP can stick the landing in the final two volumes - it's been a joy so far, the equal of any beloved 1e classic.

...now can we please, /please/ get that Bright Lions AP?


Paizo Employee Webstore Coordinator

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Announced for October! Product image and description are not final and may be subject to change.

Grand Archive

Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

oooooh! Nice! Going against Walkena! That will be harsh!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Walkena was CR 16 so level 16 creature as boss in this part of adventure makes sense :O


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Beyond excited for this!! Considering playing an Old Sun God worshipping refugee from Mzali in this campaign, having have to return home and confront the evil at the heart of it will be cathartic haha


2 people marked this as a favorite.

A comprehensive look at Walkena, the evil child mummy-god
of Mzali! Sweet! I can't wait!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I really hope the “diplomatic” part of this holds true; would love to see more support for nonviolent play!

Liberty's Edge

I take "diplomatic" as do not start an open war with Walkena. And I think he is there for a long time. No sense in getting rid of a villain that has so much potential for further stories.

Much like Cheliax IMO. Too good to waste.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Raven Black wrote:

I take "diplomatic" as do not start an open war with Walkena. And I think he is there for a long time. No sense in getting rid of a villain that has so much potential for further stories.

Much like Cheliax IMO. Too good to waste.

Bringing back the old gods would be a fun AP. Mwangi Hell’s Rebels, kinda!

Liberty's Edge

Given that LO: Mwangi Expanse has Walkena as an actual, fully-divine god, I'm not convinced "punch Walkena in the face" is even going to be on the table for this adventure.

Dark Archive

Shisumo wrote:
Given that LO: Mwangi Expanse has Walkena as an actual, fully-divine god, I'm not convinced "punch Walkena in the face" is even going to be on the table for this adventure.

I mean he was both fully divine god in 1e and CR 16 creature.

Those two aren't mutually exclusive xD


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

it would be interesting for sure but I feel like an "overthrow Walkena" adventure is also prime material for an entire adventure path, there's lots of potential there and if he was CR 16 in 1e that means he might still be possible to defeat in 2e


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

If he's possible for PCs to defeat, he's not "fully divine".

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Ed Reppert wrote:
If he's possible for PCs to defeat, he's not "fully divine".

All form of gods are "divine" whether they are quasi gods or demi gods or whatever. The 1e mythic characters with ability to give cleric spells ARE gods no matter how you categorize them.

"Fully divine" has nothing to do with state of how hard something is to defeat, do note that gods can die.


I think there's a confusion about what exactly "fully divine" means. It could mean "True godhood", which is the state where a being does not have stats that can be meaningfully comprehended by by a mortal being, or it could mean "has the ability to grant spells", in which case any being as low as level 15 could theoretically become a quasidiety and grant spells. Either way, as far as can tell walkena's "divine rank" is not stated in the Mwangi Expanse.

Liberty's Edge

I just read the Mzali chapter of the LO Mwangi Expanse book.

Is it possible for non-Mwangi characters to even play a part in this scenario, considering the extreme xenophobia of Mzali's powers that be and their laws against foreigners ?

If not, it would have been better to just ban PCs of non-Mwangi origins in the AP Player's Guide.

Paizo Employee Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Yes, non-Mwangi characters will be permitted to enter Mzali during this adventure.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
The Raven Black wrote:

I just read the Mzali chapter of the LO Mwangi Expanse book.

Is it possible for non-Mwangi characters to even play a part in this scenario, considering the extreme xenophobia of Mzali's powers that be and their laws against foreigners ?

If not, it would have been better to just ban PCs of non-Mwangi origins in the AP Player's Guide.

Or they could approach the situation maintaining a disguise? Or perhaps approach more as an infiltration type mission?

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Luis Loza wrote:
Yes, non-Mwangi characters will be permitted to enter Mzali during this adventure.

THANK YOU SO MUCH !!!

I have really become enamored of my stupid concept of a foreign exchange student who is a LE Druid of the Uskwood and a faithful (bordering on fanatic) Kuthist. I think things will be extremely interesting.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Worth remembering that this is a /diplomatic/ mission - if Walkena is willing to talk, then things are already outside the norm.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Oh my gods, the cover artwork is so wonderful, the arboreal looks to be delivering one hell of a lecture


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Calcryx666 wrote:
Oh my gods, the cover artwork is so wonderful, the arboreal looks to be delivering one hell of a lecture

“Back in my day a forest was full of real trees, not these newfangled saplings with their backward facing baseball caps”


Weird, I'm still seeing the old cover.

Silver Crusade

Click to view the full sized (and new) cover, if that doesn't work try clearing cookies.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Mzali and Walkena are the big draws here, of course, but it also sounds like we might get some answers about Osibu?

Liberty's Edge

Surely the arboreal and the description of what lies within the village are mere coincidences ;-)


If anyone has this… how is it? I’m super curious about the diplomacy stuff and new character options, but I’m most eager to learn what the Mzali/Walkena part of this volume looks like!


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

Walkena is beginning to establish relationships with various Mwangi powers, including the city of Kibwe and the the Magaambya. At this point in the adventure, Oyamba decides to send a diplomatic mission to Mzali, and that mission includes all of the PCs. Diplomacy is conducted using a modified form of the influence subsystem on pages 151-153 of the Gamemastery Guide, with numerous downtime activities detailed. Many pages of this AP module are devoted to this diplomacy.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Back in volume 1 of this AP, we were informed that Esi Djana was the daughter of a female Tempest-Sun Mage. Until I saw this volume, I was convinced that Esi's mother was Tahenkot -- but I was wrong about that, wasn't I? That would mean that Esi's mother remains unidentified.


Any Archetypes in this one?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
keftiu wrote:
Any Archetypes in this one?

Kind of! There's an expansion to a previously-released archetype from a Lost Omens book that only had a couple of feats in it, gaining a handful more.

Spoiler:
It's the Bright Lion archetype, as one might expect.

Also, vis a vis the diplomacy/Mzali section of the volume, it's pretty neat; basically running around trying to make nice with the Evil rulers of the city so as to help build the foundation for future change. I don't know if I exactly agree with the ideal of incremental, stable change presented as the ultimate goal for the Magaambyan delegation here, but I accept that there's already an active revolutionary group fighting for change in Mzali and it's not us, at least at the moment.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
obfuscatingDeity wrote:
keftiu wrote:
Any Archetypes in this one?

Kind of! There's an expansion to a previously-released archetype from a Lost Omens book that only had a couple of feats in it, gaining a handful more.

** spoiler omitted **

Also, vis a vis the diplomacy/Mzali section of the volume, it's pretty neat; basically running around trying to make nice with the Evil rulers of the city so as to help build the foundation for future change. I don't know if I exactly agree with the ideal of incremental, stable change presented as the ultimate goal for the Magaambyan delegation here, but I accept that there's already an active revolutionary group fighting for change in Mzali and it's not us, at least at the moment.

Hell yeah!

One step closer to a proper Bright Lions adventure/AP someday


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
keftiu wrote:
obfuscatingDeity wrote:
keftiu wrote:
Any Archetypes in this one?

Kind of! There's an expansion to a previously-released archetype from a Lost Omens book that only had a couple of feats in it, gaining a handful more.

** spoiler omitted **

Also, vis a vis the diplomacy/Mzali section of the volume, it's pretty neat; basically running around trying to make nice with the Evil rulers of the city so as to help build the foundation for future change. I don't know if I exactly agree with the ideal of incremental, stable change presented as the ultimate goal for the Magaambyan delegation here, but I accept that there's already an active revolutionary group fighting for change in Mzali and it's not us, at least at the moment.

Hell yeah!

One step closer to a proper Bright Lions adventure/AP someday

I just did a quick skim of the adventure and... oh, yeah. It isn't promised, but it is implied. I would even say strongly implied.


Well, I'm vibrating now. Thanks for the replies!

Spoiler question: :
Has anything changed with Walkena or Mzali by the adventure's end?


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
keftiu wrote:

Well, I'm vibrating now. Thanks for the replies!

** spoiler omitted **

This depends on how good the Magaambya delegation is at politicking:

Spoiler:
the more Influence Points the party manages to attain in the Influence segment in the first chapter, the more lenient and relaxed the new reforms to Mzali's trade and travel policies become, ranging from "no more mandatory death penalty for outsiders, but I reserve the right to kill them personally" to "full abolishment of the death penalty and free travel into and out of the city."

Also, the party can potentially kill Walkena's favorite general(as well as fighting and defeating an avatar of Walkena himself), greatly shaking up the power balance within the city. Plus, because of the magics protecting the city of Osibu(and probably because it would be waaay harder to deal with the ramifications of this), Walkena doesn't actually know that the PC's are the ones who did this, and thus there's no blowback on the Magaambya.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
obfuscatingDeity wrote:
keftiu wrote:

Well, I'm vibrating now. Thanks for the replies!

** spoiler omitted **

This depends on how good the Magaambya delegation is at politicking:

** spoiler omitted **

Ok, now that sounds amazing! This adventure path keeps getting better and better.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Looking over a friend’s copy now and I am seriously impressed. I’m only in the first chapter so far, but this seems like one of the strongest AP volumes I’ve ever read. The diplomatic focus is SO fresh; I hope we can see more of it. The art is all killer.

I’m also loving the hints that Mzali definitely has more stories to tell after this.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
keftiu wrote:

Looking over a friend’s copy now and I am seriously impressed. I’m only in the first chapter so far, but this seems like one of the strongest AP volumes I’ve ever read. The diplomatic focus is SO fresh; I hope we can see more of it. The art is all killer.

I’m also loving the hints that Mzali definitely has more stories to tell after this.

All I have to say is: please keep reading. I think you will be very pleased with what you might find.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Evan Tarlton wrote:
keftiu wrote:

Looking over a friend’s copy now and I am seriously impressed. I’m only in the first chapter so far, but this seems like one of the strongest AP volumes I’ve ever read. The diplomatic focus is SO fresh; I hope we can see more of it. The art is all killer.

I’m also loving the hints that Mzali definitely has more stories to tell after this.

All I have to say is: please keep reading. I think you will be very pleased with what you might find.

Oh, wow.

Wow.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Having finished my read-through: this is my favorite Paizo AP volume, and barring anything catastrophic in books 5 or 6 (which I don't expect), this might be my favorite AP.

This book contains some pretty remarkable shakeups to the setting that I'm really pleased with.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

With the union recognized, I have now bought this and left it the glowing review it deserves.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If we do get that Bright Lions AP, I really want one of the titles to be

Spoiler for this issue, you have been warned:
God Fight!


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

Anyone else seeing the word Golpogo on the creature art on page 80 of their PDF? Looks like it was copied from the previous volume somehow.

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

Fumarole wrote:
Anyone else seeing the word Golpogo on the creature art on page 80 of their PDF? Looks like it was copied from the previous volume somehow.

Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Fumarole wrote:
Anyone else seeing the word Golpogo on the creature art on page 80 of their PDF? Looks like it was copied from the previous volume somehow.

Yes, I have the same thing in both my PDF and printed copy. Doesn't bug me, since I extract out the images anyway so it won't have that label, but interesting error.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Will there be additional waves of print copies available? Currently books 3 and 4 are out of stock it looks like, but I've already got 1-2 and would like to buy the rest.

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

3 people marked this as a favorite.
CrusaderWolf wrote:
Will there be additional waves of print copies available? Currently books 3 and 4 are out of stock it looks like, but I've already got 1-2 and would like to buy the rest.

We have not initiated any reprints at this time. We typically don't with Adventures Paths. We are reprinting the popular Abomination Vaults as a hardcover compilation. I'll share what we are doing with this AP when I know.

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