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Minireview: The Final Wish (Pathfinder #24)

The Final Wish concludes the Legacy of Fire adventure path, and is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it revisits some old locations (now greatly changed), which is nice and establishes continuity and the actions-have-consequences thing. On the other hand, it has the same problem that many (most?) higher-level D&D(ish) adventures have: it throws huge monster after huge monster at the PCs, in an effort to challenge them. For groups that enjoy combat this is probably cool, but I’m much more a fan of the Exalted style of challenging powerful characters – give them stuff that they cannot just blast away, give them hard choices to make, concentrate on social stuff. Oh, give the combat too, but don’t make that the main point. This module tries to do that a bit, at times, but it’s a bit too much of a high-level combatfest for my taste.

The PCs return to Golarion after an extended planar jaunt, and things have gone from bad to worse. In addition to seeing “their” own town under military occupation, it seems that some Big Bad is about to wake up. Cue fight scenes.

On the whole, I think the whole Legacy of Fire adventure path was a very mixed affair. The start-up adventure is excellent, and the pocket dimension planar excursion was also pretty damn cool (almost Exalted-like in feel at times). However, the background plot was very much in the background, and unless the GM explicitly spells things out, I fear the players could feel that they are just shuffled from one place to another with little rhyme or reason. There are lots of cool components here, but I don’t feel they quite fit together as a whole. It feels a bit incoherent. It might be that this one plays better than it reads, of course.

I have high hopes for the next adventure path, Council of Thieves, since it’s supposed to be more or less completely city-based. Curse of the Crimson Throne was also be supposed to be that, but wasn’t really (it still was the best one so far, in my opinion).

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Minireview: The Impossible Eye (Pathfinder #23)

After the quite wonderful End of Eternity, the fifth installment of the Legacy of Fire adventure path (The Impossible Eye by Greg A. Vaughan) is both not quite as good and also a bit more pedestrian. Now, seeing as it’s set in the legendary City of Brass, that’s maybe a bit weird. You would expect a planehopping adventure to present weird and wonderful scenes galore. Here the problem is the main setup: the PCs end up in a huge temple building located in the City of Brass – but said temple is the locus of a dimensional trap and is totally cut off from the rest of the city. So the fact that it’s located in a huge, legendary location doesn’t really matter in any way, and the PCs are essentially stuck inside a big dungeon with no access to the city.

In the end the PCs are assumed to escape and to interact with the city, and the book does give some small bits of help for that: there’s a “set piece” adventure detailing one way to return to their home plane, and then there’s an article detailing the City of Brass in general. Still… I sort of feel this was a missed chance, a lot more could have been done with this setting. In addition, there are some head-scratchers: fire-based traps in a place where most of the population is immune to fire, for example.

All that said, it’s not bad by any means. As a dungeon crawl it provides a nice variety of encounters, and not all are of the “see monster, kill monster” variety. There are multiple ways for the PCs to approach the scenario, and a social-based approach may well work (depending on who they talk to and ally with).

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Minireview: The End of Eternity (Pathfinder #22)

The End of Eternity (by Jason Nelson) is the fourth episode in the Legacy of Fire adventure path, and is also perhaps the best episode so far. Events take a sharp metaphorical left turn at the end of the last installment; this one happens entirely within an enclosed demiplane. Now, that can be good or bad, but in this case it’s pretty much all good. The demiplane involved is very cool and is essentially one big sandbox (literally, in parts) for the PCs to explore. Naturally enough, they need to figure out a way to escape… but thankfully that’s a puzzle with multiple solutions. Sure, there is a “most likely” way for them to get out, but plenty of other options are also presented.

The demiplane in question is an abandoned personal “resort space” of an ancient wizard, and as such contains plenty of bizarre features. As an added bonus, this back story makes for a good excuse for all that weirdness, which would not be very realistic elsewhere. Not that realism is even remotely something that D&D wants to be involved with, but still. Internal consistency is a good thing.

The only negative I can say about this section is that it requires some railroad in the previous episode, and also that it throws the PCs into something that’s quite different than what “they signed up for”. Most groups will consider this to be fine and have lots of fun with this… but someone may of course disagree.

In a way, this episode reminded me of Exalted. The demiplane shown here has many features that would be right at home in an Exalted game. I consider this praise.

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Minireview: Pathfinder #21, The Jackal's Price

The Jackal’s Price (by Darrin Drader) forms the midpoint of the Legacy of Fire adventure path. Like the previous parts, it’s good and fairly lighthearted Arabian Nights -flavored fun. In this installment, the PCs have (presumably) retrieved something from the House of the Beast and need to figure out what it is. Unfortunately the closest option for that is the largish trade city of Katapesh, where free commerce is king (shades of Exalted’s “Nexus” here). So off the PCs go. The travel there isn’t totally trivial and provides some options for encounters…. it might be good if these were used to foreshadow some of the parties involved here, otherwise some of the antagonists and events might seem to come out of nowhere to the players.

Once in Katapesh, it’s presumed that they meet up with a specific scholar, and ideally become allies & house guests. Surprise surprise, many parties are interested in what the PCs have – but it’s assumed that the PCs are willing to sell it, for a high price (this seems like a reasonable guess, knowing most players). Various events happen which I don’t want to spoil here, and in the end the whole thing takes a quite unexpected turn (which leads directly to the next adventure in the series).

A nice, mostly city-based adventure, with lots of options for social scheming and intrigue. Some of the events need heavy foreshadowing by the GM, ideally from the very start of the adventure path, otherwise they’ll risk seeming quite arbitrary to the players. Also, the end is somewhat railroady; it’s assumed that a certain specific trigger event occurs. To the the module’s credit it does talk briefly about “plan B” scenarios if the PCs resolutely make that event impossible – mainly, that involves jumping directly to a later part of the adventure path, with some in-between adventures inserted. Doable but not ideal, since the thing that the trigger event leads up to is really quite cool, so both the GM and players probably want it to happen (the PCs, not that much).

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Minireview: Pathfinder #20, House of the Beast

…and so we have the new Legacy of Fire adventure path swinging into gear, with House of the Beast (by Tim Hitchcock) forming part two of six.

It’s a dungeon crawl… but it’s a fairly interesting one, partly because it’s not really a “dungeon” crawl, more of a “temple crawl”. Some thought has been put into making the temple at least somewhat realistic, so instead of random monsters forming encounter after another, you instead get a living society (which is not necessarily 100% hostile towards the PCs) with multiple factions. This, to my mind, adds considerably to the interest level. In a somewhat unusual move, a long period of downtime is specified to have happened before this installment. The idea is that the PCs have “liberated” a small town from the clutches of gnoll raiders, and now they have actually been given time to build on that – build reputations, perhaps help govern the place, make friends (or enemies). Another nice touch.

The story, this time, starts when a wandering priest enters town limits and warns of a new growing gnoll war horde gathering at a far-off temple, under the leadership of the self-styled Carrion King responsible for the earlier raids. The PCs could just wait for them to attack or they could take the fight to them. It’s assumed that PCs choose the latter option, which to be honest is quite likely; especially so since the priest has some additional information which makes attack a tempting option…

I mostly liked this. Even though it’s a “dungeon crawl” as noted, it’s a fairly interesting one and there are lots of opportunities to make the PCs’ overland voyage to the “House of the Beast” an interesting one. I actually have only one niggle here: the planned actual goal of the module (which isn’t what the PCs/players imagine it is). Without giving away spoilers: the plot assumes that the PCs find something at the temple, something that is of key importance to the rest of the adventure path. What if the PCs just do the usual “kill & loot” routing and don’t find/notice the critical thing? At that point, some creative GM juggling will be required. To its credit, the adventure does note that this is an issue, and that the GM needs to have some alternate plans ready.

So, with 2 installments accounted for, Legacy of Fire looks like a very fun “Arabian Nights” -style adventure so far.

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Minireview: Pathfinder #19, Howl of the Carrion King

Howl of the Carrion King opens up Paizo’s new adventure path, Legacy of Fire. The story this time around moves into “Arabian Nights” territory, which has potential to be interesting. Written by Erik Mona, it kicks off the story in a very satisfying fashion.

The story takes place in Katapesh, where a band of heroes (cue the PCs) has decided to take on the task of liberating a small town from the clutches of a bandit lord, “The Carrion King”. Ruling over hordes of savage gnoll tribes, the Carrion King is slowly carving a kingdom for himself and it’s up to some suitable cannonfodder (cue PCs, again) to put a stop to all that. It’s assumed that the players generate characters with suitable motivations with that starting scenario in mind – the Player’s Guide to the adventure path contains some helpful pointers. On the whole, it’s a pretty good low-level adventure – the encounters are quite varied and there are lots of options to solve things via negotiation instead of straight combat, always refereshing. There’s also some nice bits where sneaking around and suchlike investigation is probably the smartest move. This one should give everyone something to do, and it’s pretty freeform.

We’ll see where this adventure path goes later on, storywise, but the beginning holds promise. I wasn’t too thrilled with the last adventure path (Second Darkness), but based on plot synopsis this one sounds more to my liking. Bonus points for the “big bad” not trying to destroy the world or something cliched like that, the actual motivation is something quite amusing.

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