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Minireview: The Sixfold Trial (Pathfinder #26)

The Sixfold Trial (by Richard Pett) is the second part of the Council of Thieves adventure path, and is also perhaps the most un-D&D -like adventure I’ve yet seen from Paizo. I mean this in a very good sense. Looks like the first part, which promised more social interaction instead of endless combats, wasn’t just a fluke.

What makes this adventure unusual is that the PCs are expected to become actors and perform a play to a select audience of nobles. The reason has to do with infiltration into a noble household, but the play is the main event here. Since this is Cheliax and the court of a decadent noble, the play is far from safe… in any fashion. There is an actual expected death toll, and the PCs will need to scramble if they don’t want to become “acceptable casualties” in the process. Sure, the PCs might also decide to do the more conventional thing and do a ninja sneak foray into the household (more like “fortress”) in question, but that could become very tricky very fast. Being invited guests makes many things so much easier. To the author’s credit, the possibility of the PCs deciding to skip the theater part is mentioned… but of course, if mostly boils down to “well, in that case you won’t be able to use half of this stuff”.

As an additional fun point, the actual script of the (short) play is provided, so the GM/players could actually go through the thing line-by-line if they feel like it. Not sure how many will do that, but in any case including the play itself gets points from me.

It’s not all theater and woe, of course. The second half of the adventure is more conventional “sneak around and dodge traps and monsters” stuff – but even that is quite interesting, since the locale is… a bit unconventional. Don’t want to give up too many spoilers here.

This is a very strong scenario, at least it reads that way. If Council of Thieves keeps this up, it may just be the best adventure path so far. Or, of course, if might tank suddenly. For some reason, the lower-level stuff almost always manages to be more interesting, later on it usually devolves into a boring high-level combatfest. Most D&D writers (and to be fair, most D&D players) don’t really grasp the idea that you don’t have to challenge PCs just via combat – in fact, if the PCs are very good at combat you need to give them anything but combat if you want to keep things interesting. Exalted teaches you this, because challenging Exalted PCs with just combat becomes pointless fast. Other types of challenges, especially moral dilemmas, tend to work much better. I’m not saying “don’t do combat”; it’s fun now and then and of course it’s (still) the core gameplay of D&D (and yes, Pathfinder is D&D). I’m saying “don’t do just combat”… and that seems to be the direction Paizo is taking this one. Me likes.

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