Pathfinder – Adventure Path
#8 – Carrion Crown
This is my thoughts on the books, storyline and possible issues I found while trying not to produce any spoilers for the storyline.
- Campaign Rules: Published Books (Paizo)
- Total Sessions:
- Gaming Group: Friday Night (fortnightly)
- Experience: As obtained from storyline milestones
- Special Campaign Rules: TBA
- Note: Uses Pathfinder for play, campaign notes maintained in Realm Works, session notes in OneNote, tabletop environment in D20Pro and character creation in Hero Lab.
From the whispering shadows of haunted Ustalav an ancient evil rises to grip the world in a new age of horror!
Amid the mists of this land of dark superstition and dread secrets stand both those who would defy the return of evil and those who would seek its terrible favor. Can the heroes discern their allies from their enemies in time to save a tortured realm from a tyrant’s return? Pathfinder’s darkest and most frightening campaign ever sets the heroes against the agents of Golarion’s most notorious villain, the Whispering Tyrant, in a terrifying trek across a land of lurking horror and ancient mysteries.
Book 43 – Haunting of Harrowstone
When cultists seeking to free the imprisoned lich king Tar-Baphon violate the ruined prison of Harrowstone, the long-quiet ghostly inmates rise in undead revolt! Brought together by the death of a common ally, the heroes unite to save the residents of a tormented town and lay the spirits of Harrowstone to rest.
Book 44 – Trial of the Beast
When the reign of terror of a savagely cunning flesh golem comes to an end, the enlightened folk of Lepidstadt insist that the creature face a lawful trial. While on the trail of the Whispering Way cultists, the heroes find their fates entwined with that of the beast when they are enlisted to guard it against infuriated townsfolk, scholars of the macabre, and the slaves of its mad creator!
Book 45 – Broken Moon
The mysterious murder of Ustalav’s lord of werewolves triggers a war in the nation’s grim forests that soon spills onto the streets. The forlorn land’s desperate people begin a hunt to scour the nation of its deadly shape-shifters. Entreated by the lord of the werewolves to help unite his savage people, the heroes must risk becoming tainted by the curse of lycanthropy as they race to find an outcast lair.
Book 46 – Wake of the Watcher
When the heroes learn of an unholy bargain between the cultists of the Whispering Way and the drowned gods of the wretched town of Illmarsh, they must journey through a wilderness gone wrong to prevent the terrible union. But an eerie eye has fallen upon Illmarsh, and the community’s deep lords are the first to fall! Can the heroes discover what foulness festers in the minds of Illmarsh? And will they be able to withstand the whispers of an insanity from beyond the stars?
Book 47 – Ashes at Dawn
A murderer stalks the streets of Caliphas, a slasher who only hunts a particular type of victim: vampires. As the heroes track the cultists of the Whispering Way, they lose their quarry amid the mazelike alleys of Ustalav’s crowded capital city. But from the shadows, a dark patron rises with offers of aid and insights into the cult’s ultimate evil. All he asks in return is that the adventurers put an end to the murderer terrorizing the city’s vampires. This leads the heroes into an underworld of endless night, where they must explore the vampires’ deadly society and indulge its blasphemous traditions if they’re to discover who’s murdering the undead.
Book 48 – Shadows of Gallowspire
The deadly plot of the Whispering Way cultists comes to its terrifying climax in the shadows of the tower imprisoning the Whispering Tyrant himself! There the cultists plot to conduct a ritual to resurrect the notorious villain, using their collected relics to transform an innocent into a new undead body for the imprisoned lich king. Can the heroes withstand the ageless evil to Gallowspire to finally defeat the Whispering Way? Or will the Whispering Tyrant, one of the greatest villains of known history, be unleashed upon the world once more?
- 2020-10-19 – Migration from Realm Works.
Game Management: Annotated Stat Blocks, Choosing a New Campaign, Creating a Campaign, Running Games over Skype, Tracking Experience
Building Characters: Pathfinder Unchained: Rogue, Freeport: Freebooter (Pirate)
Adventure Paths: AP #1 – Rise of the Runelords, AP #2 – Curse of the Crimson Throne, AP #3 – Second Darkness, AP #4 – Legacy of Fire, AP #5 – Council of Thieves, AP #6 – Kingmaker, AP #7 – Serpent’s Skull, AP #8 – Carrion Crown, AP #9 – Jade Regent
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Last week we finally completed the Carrion Crownadventure path, using Pathfinder. Our characters finished the campaign at 15th level, leveling up in lacum, so to speak, in the final dungeon. Carrion Crown seems to have taken longer than previous campaigns, but we did interrupt it after one player left, only to re-start it again after some other games. What follows are my observations, firstly on Carrion Crown, having played through the bulk of it (and only missing a few room clearing sessions) and secondly on what it has taught me about Pathfinder and by extension, playing high level Dungeons and Dragons.
Firstly, Carrion Crown. This is the second Paizo Adventure Path we've played, having played through the bulk of Kingmaker. The group had played in an earlier one, I think Rise of the Runelords, before I joined, but we're going back a way here. Carrion Crown sets out to be something of a gothic horror setting, perhaps inspired by Hammer Horror films and latterly the Ravenloftcampaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons. It does feel a bit like the recent Van Helsing movie, certainly in its earlier stages.
We had some interesting challenges along the way, particularly in the earlier stages of the campaign when the party was weaker. In terms of characters killed, I think Kelvin's PC Nicodemus and Nicodemus' henchman Norman both died at some point, although application of powerful magic in both cases managed to restore them (luckily, when Nicodemus succumbed to dragon breath in the later stages of the campaign, the cost of a Raise Dead scroll was a lot less, relatively speaking, than it might have been earlier on).
|There is a nod to H.P.Lovecraft in the campaign.|
Probably our toughest encounters were with constructs, of which there were a fair few throughout the campaign, although one story arc was particularly heavy with them. They caused us no end of trouble and it was no surprise that the scenario designer peppered the later levels with constructs too. Again, this was because the party was keyed to fighting undead (and hence anything else became commensurately tougher), and the constructs' invulnerabilities made them much harder to stop.
The gothic horror/pseudo-Ravenloft atmosphere began to suffer somewhat as the PCs became more dangerous and scarier than the opposition. Our paladin morphed into a dragon disciple with infernal leanings, while the rogue/ranger became a shadow dancer. The necromancer was always a little suspect, particularly once he began throwing Control Undead around. There is quite a fine line ethically speaking between Raise Dead and Control Undead, but he trod it well. Walking into a spooky ruined cathedral and being surprised by dozens of ghouls is also less shocking if you can summon a dinosaur or a rhino into the fray - the presence of stampeding megafauna is always going to detract a little from the creepy miasma. Peter Cushing didn't have an anklyosaurus to back him up against Dracula.
|At one point we teamed up with some werewolves.|
Secondly, Pathfinder. Playing through a full campaign in this way - and, yes, we finished it, which was an absolute triumph of consistency - brought home to me how different, how very different, the high level and low level games are to what I'll call the middle game. This was brought home to me when we had a break to play 1st level characters in Rappan Athuk while our main party was about 13th level. Going back to 1st really brought home the weaknesses and limitations of 1st level parties. On the other side, parties of 13+ are massive killing machines, able to blast their way through hordes of enemies, frequently taking down most opposition in the first round of combat. You end up rolling bucket loads of dice, which feels more like Warhammer 40,000! Our GM Ben was forced to combine encounters to save time and to present more of a challenge in the later stages of the game. Some encounters were nixed at higher levels with Magic Jar and I remember taking down some mummies and two invisible stalkers with Holy Word.
I therefore have come to the conclusion that Pathfinder distils into three very distinct games. The first, the low level game, where the characters are more vulnerable, can potentially die and not be resurrected, regularly drop to negative hit points, and where they can be more constrained by the campaign environment. This probably stops at about 5th level. The high level game kicks in at around 12-13th and really becomes more exaggerated from there, with followers, masses of summoned support, some really ridiculous spells coming online, teleportation, magic jars, etc.
Our 14th level party recently rooted through a pile of loot including magic items that would have had the same characters whooping for joy at 3rd level, but the magic was literally discarded on the floor of the dungeon. Hence, my view is that the optimum core party strength levels, and the most fun for both GMs and players, is 5th-12th level. And that also explains to me why so many older modules were written for those strength factors. The party is tough enough that there is less scope for total party kill, but not so powerful that many encounters can be nixed almost immediately.
So that's it really. Carrion Crown is a wrap. Now we're on to a Warhammer campaign next week, the new Enemy Within.
Reviving Ravenloft – A look at the Carrion Crown Adventure Path (Part Two)
The first entry in my review of Paizo’s Ravenloft-inspired Adventure Path, Carrion Crown, dealt mainly with the first two modules of the series, The Haunting of Harrowstone and The Trial of the Beast. In the interest of space, I cut the first review at that point, not wanting to spill into the 4~5,000 words range. I probably could have dealt with all six modules in the adventure path, but there are some outlying issues that I wanted to touch on as I went along.
In the first entry, I touched briefly on the metaplot of the Adventure Path. Being the larger, overarching plot of the module series, the metaplot is pretty important in the long run. It gives the characters a reason to follow through on their investigations, and it does what it can to string the different events into a coherent whole. Since each of the six individual modules are written by different authors (something that remains in force for all of Paizo’s AP offerings, extending back into the days of Dungeon Magazine), the metaplot is often the only way that any of the scattered narratives can be brought together. It can’t be an easy thing.
The reason I say this is because there are some notable rough patches in some of the Adventure Path plots. There are points in some of them where narratives are sort of tacked on, and other points where abrupt shifts in tone seem to take over. I’m not laying blame on anyone with these, as it’s what is going to happen with this many thousand words and the strict deadlines that Paizo is working with.
To its credit, Carrion Crown avoids a lot of specific missteps in the way it comes together. The worst sin that can be lain at its feet is the exuberance in which the path switches between monster genres. And for the sake of covering the necessary ground, that can probably be forgiven.
The way that the modules follow the metaplot, in the mean time, can be called into question. Starting early in the second module, the characters are presented with a strange, unsolvable mystery. When the Beast of Lepidstadt is apprehended, it had aided in the theft of a mysterious statue. From there, the modules progress forward, never giving any hint to the players about why this particular maguffin is important, until a footnote at the very end of the fourth module brings the statue back into the hands of the characters.
In the mean time, the characters are supposedly hot on the trail of a pair of ‘dark riders’ (sadly, not Ringwraiths) who always manage to be one step ahead of anything the characters do. About the third time it happens, it starts to seem comical. They get to the forest? Just missed them. They find the ancient shrine to Desna? Oh, sorry. They end up at the war torn dead fields of Feldgrau? Whoops, you should have been here about 20 minutes ago. And so on. As with the statue stolen from Lepidstadt, there isn’t any closure brought to this until the end of module four.
There’s an interesting note in the final module of the series, where the editor, Wes, talks about integrating the main villain into the larger plot of the series. His suggestion (based as it is in classic horror movie stylings) has Adivion Adrissant take an active role in taunting the player characters all along, leaving notes and clues for them with the various cultists that he knows they’re going to kill. He laments that he hadn’t managed to include this at the outset of the path but suggests that it might be a good exercise for the GM who has time for a little prep and the entire modules series in front of him at the time.
And really, it’s a great idea. Personally, I would go a step further and have the character of Adrissant show up here and there in disguise, making conversation with the characters at the bar or in passing on the street, but that’s just my own personal take on things. It would go a long way to smoothing off the rough edges of having the cultists able to elude the characters for three full modules. (Four, if you bring in the standalone Carrion Hill module between Broken Moon and Wake of the Watcher.) It also gives the GM a better interplay than the taunting missives that Adrissant leaves for the heroes.
So, at the end of the second module, the characters are given a bit more information about where to go next and sent forward to stop the larger plots in play. Where the first module only hinted at the conspiracy, the second module confirms it and makes it clear that the player characters are about the only people available to investigate.
The third module has them head into the wild, bucolic woods in search of cultists. The main area is the hunting lodge for rich idiots, with various incursions into werewolf politics as the driving force of the first half of the module. The characters have to deal with the plots of the human villain, as he covers up his involvement with the cult that serves as the AP’s primary villain and the characters have to defuse a strange tangle of werewolf politics.
This is another thing that seems weird about the Adventure Path, as a whole. There are some specific points in the series where the heroes are expected to help the monsters, rather than hunt them down. This becomes particularly evident in module five, where most of the interplay in the module takes place with vampires. Given that a vampire hunter character archetype is pretty likely in the scope of the module series, this is probably going to end up being frustrating. To their credit, the module takes this into consideration, with ways to complete the plot once all of the damned vampires have been staked, but really… it diminishes the module and the way that it’s meant to be played.
Similarly, module two has the characters run ragged to keep Frankenstein’s Monster from being executed. Weirdly, there’s quite a bit of sleep deprivation involved in that module, given that the characters have to ride out into the wilderness to investigate and then return to give their testimony the next morning. This sequence is where the Lesser Restoration spell hilariously becomes the Pathfinder equivalent to Red Bull.
The final verdict, for whatever reason, is that the monsters are less monstrous and evil than the humans that walk amongst them. Even the war torn fields of the dead in Feldgrau are largely the fault of the people in the setting. Maybe this is why so many horror movie creatures feel like settling in Ustalav. They’re not the ones to be feared in this dark and horrible land.
Oddly though, this concept does not touch the player characters themselves.
You see, in Ravenloft, much of the flavor of the setting was the constant temptation towards evil. And if a character took any steps towards actually fulfilling the evil thoughts that swirled around them, they would be rewarded by the dark powers that governed Ravenloft. At first, it would a be a minor thing, offset by a minor drawback, but the nature of the rewards would become progressively more powerful. And the drawbacks would slowly become debilitating curses, an outward sign of the corruption that gnawed at the heart of the hero so tempted.
While I was running Carrion Crown, I felt that the characters had to make a conscious choice to fight back against the evil that surrounded them. The problem with this was that there wasn’t any mechanical reason for the players to hold to this. Granted, this was a single Adventure Path with very little spare room left over, but the Ustalav setting book could have dealt with it, as could have some other source. I always felt the temptation of the dark powers was a necessary part of Ravenloft’s feel, so having it missing from the latter day homage felt weird. Then again, my Star Wars games always had a heavy Dark Side presence, so it may just be me.
Carrion Crown Adventure Path
3 out of 5 rating for Carrion Crown Adventure Path
I'm completing the 5th book of this AP with my group, and we've been running the AP for over four years. I have mixed feelings about the AP. I believe that Paizo's design goal for this AP was to present a horror-themed adventure path which features iconic undead adversaries, and presents an overall feel of fear, dread and horror. To the good, the AP features a tour-de-force of classic horror monsters in the various chapters, focusing on one or two classic tropes per chapter. Ghosts, zombies, werewolves, vampires, witches and a lich end-boss are all well represented. If killing lots of undead in gothic settings is your cup of tea, have at it! The AP delivers this very well.To the bad, the AP does not deliver on giving the players an overall feeling of impending doom, as a good horror-themed game should. I think this is not so much a fault of the writing in the AP as it is a fault of the game system itself. The Pathfinder RPG is essentially a game of fantasy super heroes kicking ass and taking names. In my experience, the game works best when the players are allowed to be awesome, and face challenging opponents without too much worry about being annihilated by the opposition. This is not a good fit with a game that wants to instill a feeling of overwhelming odds, unbeatable opponents, and the threat of death (or worse!) at every turn. There also seems to be a lack of connection between chapters of the AP. As written, the main BBEG does not even become known to the party until chapter 5, and the party only sees him in person at the very end of the AP. I had to make a lot of modifications to the AP to make the BBEG more personal and despicable to the group (thanks Paizo message boards!). Paizo also has a severe crush on the Lovecraft mythos, which they tried to shoe-horn into chapter 4 of the AP. It did not work. The chapter seemed out of place, and was more of a side quest for the group; it didn't really contribute anything meaningful to the advancement of the main story. Final analysis: If killing undead is your thing, this is the AP for you. If horror themed games are more your style, skip this one, and play Call of Cthulhu instead.
Crown review carrion
Today on d20 Diaries the end is nigh! That’s right! We’re talking about Doomsday Dawn!
Pathfinder Playtest released a short time ago, and alongside it they launched a few adventures. There are three Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenarios out, which we’ll talk about later this week. But, the main playtest experience is an adventure called Doomsday Dawn. All four of these adventures are a free download on Paizo’s website.
More accurately, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is a series of linked adventures which, played all in a row, make a comprehensive storyline. It’s like a mini-adventure path. With a few differences. For starters, this is created for Pathfinder Playtest, not the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended not only to introduce players to the new Pathfinder rules, but also to playtest certain aspects of those rules. As such, each mini-adventure is focused on a different aspect of gameplay. Once you’ve finished a section of the adventure you’re invited to head over to Paizo’s website and fill out a survey about your experience. While you’re there, I highly recommend picking up the maps for this adventure: Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack. It contains two different flip-mats which feature the four major maps of this adventure. Other maps found throughout are more generic and can be drawn on a blank mat (Pathfinder: Flip Mat: Bigger Basic), or created with other flip-mats and map products you might have at home.
There’s a few other important things to note. Doomsday Dawn takes place over a long time. A decade to be exact! And it takes it characters all throughout the Inner Sea. Most importantly: this adventure is not always played with the same characters. That is to say, you’ll make a group of ‘Primary’ characters, who will play three parts of this adventure together: parts 1, 4 and 7. For the other four parts you will play different heroes who do tasks related to the primary character’s ongoing story. Each of these side groups will be created for a specific purpose and are only used once. These characters will play parts 2, 3, 5, and 6. Intrigued? Then read on!
Doomsday Dawn tells the story of the Aucturn Enigma, which was first introduced in the module Entombed With The Pharaohs, and was also featured in the module The Pact Stone Pyramid, both of which came out before Pathfinder had its own official rules set. No idea what that is? No worries. Neither do your characters. Basically this adventure involves Ancient Osirion, the Dominion of the Black, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, The Night Heralds, the planet Aucturn, and nothing short of the end of the world. Yup, the stakes are high! For more information on Osirion, you can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Osirion, Legacy of Pharoahs.
In the year 4718 A.R. (later this year) the celestial bodies will align allowing the Dominion of the Black an opportunity to merge the planet Aucturn with that of Golarion. If this happens life as we know it will end. This doomsday is only possible with objects of power from Ancient Osirion which were put in place long ago in preparation for this time. A group of evil cultists called the Night Heralds seek to bring this end into being, while another group, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, seeks to stop them. That’s where your many different characters come in.
The first part of Doomsday Dawn is entitled The Lost Star and is intended to introduce new players and GMs to the rules of Pathfinder Playtest. During this adventure you’ll get the hang of encounter mode, and generally get a handle on the new rules. The Lost Star is played by your primary characters, who will begin at level one. They will follow all of the regular character creation rules as detailed in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, except for their background, which will be chosen from the special backgrounds presented at the start of Doomsday Dawn. These special backgrounds include: Budding Osirionologist, Esoteric Scion, Family Friend, Goblin Renegade, Mind Quake Survivor, and Pathfinder Hopeful. Each of these backgrounds is much more specific than the generic backgrounds in the Playtest Rulebook, and is meant to not only tie your primary character to adventure’s story, but also provide them with lore skills that will be of use. There are no other special considerations you need to take into account when making your characters, although it is recommended your primary characters form a balanced party from a wide variety of ancestries, classes and backgrounds.
The Lost Star begins in Magnimar in the year 4707 AR, which is eleven years before Golarion’s present and a week or two before the start of Paizo’s first Pathfinder Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords. It takes place in the Varisian city of Magnimar and involves a noblewoman by the name of Keleri Deverin. Keleri is a relative of Kendra Deverin, the mayor of Sandpoint. With the upcoming Swallowtail festival to to begin in Sandpoint soon, Keleri headed down into her family’s vaults to pick up a family heirloom known as the Star of Desna, in hopes of getting it blessed at the festival. Unfortunately, she found the vaults robbed by goblins. And one was left behind! She questioned the brute, only to discover that the little goblin’s tribe (the Mudchewers) had been conquered by a nasty hobgoblin by the name of Drakus the Taker. Poor little goblins! Sensing opportunity, Keleri sought outside help. She hired a group of adventurers — your Primary PCs — and sends them down into the sewers of Magnimar to both obtain the Star of Desna and, possibly, to forge an alliance with the remains of the Mudchewers. But unforeseen events are at work, and clues discovered under Magnimar will lead to greater adventures after this. The Lost Star makes use of one side of the flip-mats in the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack.
My family has already had a chance to play The Lost Star. We found it great fun, although it was not without difficulty. We had a tough time with Drakus the Taker, having multiple characters fall unconscious, and one die. We also had some trouble with our alchemist running out of resonance in the first battle. She had to overspend her resonance for the rest of the adventure, which was dicey at best. On an upcoming playtest where I get to make a character, I’m going to make an alchemist of my own, to see how it works in other hands. About the same, I expect. Lastly, we had trouble identifying treasure. It takes an hour to identify a magical item and, since my family’s character’s weren’t forced to retreat and rest, that means they never had a chance to identify or utilize a single piece of treasure throughout the adventure. Obviously, this is disappointing. That said, it’s not the fault of the adventure, so much as a part of the Pathfinder Playtest rules itself. In addition, there are some ways for characters to shorten this timeframe down. Alternatively, this can be solved by your players retreating to rest, recover resources and study objects. However, I didn’t really find this adventure suited that tactic very well. It’s not so much that you don’t have the chance. You do, if you want to, but that my players had no reason to. They were comfortable pressing on.
All in all, I rather enjoyed the Lost Star. It’s a fun introduction to the game, with some very intriguing elements. My family particularly enjoyed the polluted fountain, and the glimpse of the future. In an effort not to spoil the adventure too much, I won’t say much more on the topic. Just know that we enjoyed it. In fact, my kids had so much fun, they turned the title of the adventure (Doomsday Dawn) into a song that they’ve been singing around the house. My daughter also made a delightful little sign that reads ‘We Be (GOOD) Goblins!’ She gleefully made a goblin as her primary character.
Those of you looking for more information on Magnimar, can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Magnimar, City of Monuments. Those of you looking for more information on Varisia in general can check out the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.
The second part of Doomsday Dawn is called ‘In Pale Mountain’s Shadow.’ It takes place two years after the end of the Lost Star. During that time, Keleri Deverin and the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye have been hard at work looking into the clues uncovered by the Primary characters during their foray into the goblin caves. They’ve recently learned of an Ancient Osiriani object of power called a countdown clock, which is counting down to a time when the world will come to an end. Believing that having one of these countdown clocks (there’s a lot of them) in their possession will give the Primary Characters and the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye an advantage in foiling the apocalypse, they have been hard at work attempting to track one down. Thankfully, they’ve succeeded. Unfortunately, there are others after the same countdown clock. In order to get at it in time the Esoteric Order will have to hire outside help. This is your second characters.
This second group is a team of adventurers or mercenaries who live in and around the recently liberated town of Kelmarane. Yes, you heard right. This adventure takes place in Katapesh, in between Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King, and Legacy Of Fire: Book 2: House Of The Beast. Legacy of Fire is one of my all time favourite Adventure Paths (as anyone whose visited my d20 Stories page may have noticed… Haha), so I was more than a little excited for this connection. My children are equally excited to play through this part of Doomsday Dawn, as they’re currently in a play-by-post Legacy of Fire campaign and are working their way up to liberating Kelmarane as we speak. (But that’s a story for another day!)
‘In Pale Mountain’s Shadow’ sees your new adventuring group hired by a noblewoman representing the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. She tasks your PCs with travelling through the surrounding wilds, to the slopes of Pale Mountain, where they will enter through a back-door to the tomb of Tular Seft. They must retrieve the countdown clock before another enemy group does (The Night Heralds), and may keep anything else they find in the tomb. Oh, and they’ll be well paid, of course. This adventure features a lot of exploration mode and travel through the wilds, so at least one of your group members should be capable of navigating and surviving in the wilderness (two is better!). In addition, it is built to test out how terrain, hazards, and other difficulties affect battle. They’re interested in if such battles are still fun to play, or they drag out too long. They’re also interesting in seeing if the terrain makes battle too difficult. So once you’re done playing through this section be sure to give your feedback. It will directly help them hammer out this aspect of Pathfinder’s new ruleset.
The characters you will be making will be brand new fourth level characters made following all of the character creation and level up rules found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. In addition, three uncommon languages are available for your characters to select with their languages known: Auran, Gnoll, and Ancient Osiriani. Knowledge of these languages can open up new opportunities throughout the adventure, it is not necessary. As for gear, each character gets one 3rd-level item, two 2nd-level items, one 1st-level item, and 300 sp to spend on additional items.
Overall, ‘In Pale Mountains Shadow’ looks like a lot of fun. It has an actual introduction, which Lost Star didn’t, and is a relief. The exploratory portion has interesting encounters which I think will play well at the table. These travel encounters all occur on maps you’ll be drawing yourself, or creating with your own map products at home. There are detailed instructions for drawing these maps, and feedback is desired if this was handled adequately in the surveys you’ll be filling out. After the exploration portion (which will likely take a single play session for my family), we get to the Tomb of Tular Seft himself. This portion of the adventure includes an image of a custom map which is not included in the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack so you’ll have to draw it yourself. It’s an awesome looking tomb, with a lot of nifty features. It’s my kids favourite map in the entire Doomsday Dawn Adventure, for sure, and has them quite intrigued. The tomb also has some interesting role-playing opportunities which your group may or may not be able to capitalize on. At some point, your players are bound to run into their rivals — the Night Herald cultists who have been sent to acquire the countdown clock before you can. When this occurs is entirely up to your group and will vary from table to table. There’s even a chance they might slip in and out without ever meeting the Night Heralds (though the chances of that are infinitely slim). The battle looks tough, and like a lot of fun. Particularly because it allows your players to interact with the Night Heralds for the first time. It think it’s going to be a lot of fun. That said, this battle involves multiple different, complex, NPC stat blocks, and GMs should prepare accordingly. In fact, I think that this chapter is actually my favourite adventure within Doomsday Dawn. Whether that will be the case after running it at the table next week remains to be seen. Haha.
Those of you looking for more information on Kelmarane and the Pale Mountain region can check out Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King. Information on Katapesh can be found in Dark Markets, A Guide to Katapesh, or the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.
Our story continues in a few years later in part three of Doomsday Dawn: ‘Affair at Sombrefell Hall.’ The Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye has a been researching the strange cult known as the Night Heralds, and their plans to bring about the end of the world. Thanks to the efforts of mercenaries the Order has acquired a countdown clock, and have a timeline for the apparent coming end. They’ve discovered enemies, allies, and even discerned that this ‘doomsday’ involved the Dominion of the Black. They’ve gleaned all they can on their own, but now is the time to call on outside help. Your third group of characters will be a team hired by (or a part of) the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye who are sent to Ustalav to contact the foremost expert in the study of the Dominion of the Black, Dr. Verid Oscilar, and obtain his assistance in determining the plans of the Night Heralds. Upon arriving they discover that the good doctor is currently taking a break from teaching, and is relaxing at his personal manor in the countryside. Your characters will head to the manor, and try to obtain his help. Unfortunately for both your characters and Dr. Oscilar, the Night Heralds are more than aware of his expertise, and seek to make him one of their own. …Sort of. We’ll leave that a surprise for now. Haha. It doesn’t make use of any flip-mats, so be sure to have a blank map and your markers ready. You’ll be doing a lot of drawing!
This section of the adventure takes place in Ustalav during the events of the Pathfinder Adventure Path: Carrion Crown: Book One: Haunting of Harrowstone. That said, they take place in completely different parts of the country and aren’t going to have any effect on each other. It’s meant to be a survival horror adventure, which will feature a lot of combat against a lot of undead with minimal preparatory time in between. This is meant to test out the healing resources of a group that includes multiple healers against undead forces. GMs will need to track not only how long each battle takes, but also how much healing is used in each fight. Your group must include at least two clerics capable of channeling energy. The other members of the group must be characters capable of healing to some extent (which can include bard, druid, paladin, or a sorcerer that has divine spells and, to a lesser extent, the alchemist). These new characters will be level seven. They will follow all of the character creation and level up guidelines for characters found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. For gear, they will begin with one 6th-level item, two 5th-level items, one 4th-level item, two 3rd-level items, and 125 gp to spend as they see fit. One character in the group also starts with one +2 magic armor. Good luck deciding who gets that bit of treasure! Haha.
‘Affair at Sombrefell Hall’ is a dark, difficult adventure that takes place at an interesting location. It makes wonderful use of the locale, giving players a chance to explore well before the danger starts. This can give them some really interesting combat options once the battles do begin. The adventure itself begins with some interesting (and probably suspicious) social encounters, and some good old fashioned snooping around. I’m a fan of the survival horror genre in my d20 games, but, due to the nature of the playtest, this one is going to be particularly difficult. You’re going to take a lot of damage, use a lot of healing resources, and probably lose a party member or two. Hopefully, you all come out alive in the end. And, if not, at least some of you survive and secure the aid of Dr. Oscilar to enlighten your Primary Characters. Even if you don’t, you can continue Doomsday Dawn and move on to the next chapter. Perhaps the most important part of this section of the adventure is giving your players a glimpse of the evil that the Dominion of the Black is capable of. And man, oh man. They’re just so… evil! Haha.
Players looking for more information on Ustalav can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Rule of Fear or, for more general information, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.
Part four of the Doomsday Dawn, ‘Mirrored Moon,’ reunites your players with their Primary Characters. This are the same characters who played the Lost Star. They will be levelled up to 9th level, following all of the levelling rules from the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. They begin with all of the gear they acquired during the Lost Star, plus they get to purchase one 8th-level item, two 7th-level items, one 6th-level item, and two 5th-level items. They also get 250 gp to spend on extra gear. These characters are now considered to be either agents or members of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, and have been off doing tasks and missions together for the last few years. Currently, they’re in a section of the River Kingdoms known as Thicketfell, on the hunt for a mystical lake known as the Moonmere, where they hope to find ancient ruins that were once used by a villain (and possibly founder of the Night Heralds) named Ramlock. There, they will scour the ruins for information on what the coming apocalypse will bring, in order to stop it. Unfortunately, the Night Heralds are already there, and the trouble they’re up to could destroy a nation (at least). Finding the Moonmere will be the least of their troubles!
This adventure heavily uses exploration mode, and is meant to test out what kinds of challenges the characters can handle when they only get in one battle per day. The battles are difficult, so expect to go all out during each fight. That said, you’ll also very often have opportunities to scout out locations ahead of time, which should allow for some clever planning and preparations from players. This adventure makes use of one of the flip-mats from Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack, as well as three other flip-mats: Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Forest, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Giant Lairs, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Hill Country. These maps aren’t necessary, and can easily be replaced by hand-drawings on a blank map. This adventure also makes use of a terrain hex map featuring the Thicketfell region, much like those used in the Kingmaker Adventure Path (which begins with Kingmaker: Part One: Stolen Land).
I’m not a huge fan of sandbox-style explorations like those found in Kingmaker. It’s just not my cup of tea. That’d not to say its not fun. It is. It’s just not my favourite genre for d20 games. I point this out for context. I’m heading into this one pretty sure that the actual exploration itself isn’t going to be my favourite part of this adventure (or Doomsday Dawn as a whole). Far from it. That said, I always try to put aside my biases, or at least point them out. I intend, as always, to head into playing this section of the adventure with an open mind. After giving it a thorough reading I can safely say that the Mirrored Moon has the most eclectic, enjoyable cast of NPCs found throughout the entirety of Doomsday Dawn, which is going to make it quite fun. Throughout the adventure there will be plenty of opportunities to explore, roleplay, forge alliances, and gain intelligence, which should make for an interesting adventure. The gnomish citizens of Korlabablin were a particular favourite of mine. All in all, I think this is going to be a fun, challenging adventure.
For more information on the River Kingdoms, check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to the River Kingdoms, or the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.
Part Five of Doomsday Dawn is entitled ‘Heroes of Undarin,’ and may turn out to be the most controversial part of the playtest adventures. Why? Well, in short, it keeps a secret from its players, which I honestly believe should be shared. More on this later, but for now, we’ll take a look at the adventure itself.
‘Heroes of Undarin’ takes place in the Worldwound, after the events of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path (which begins with Wrath of the Righteous: Book 1: The Worldwound Incursion). It assumes that the Worldwound has been closed, the Fifth Crusade is winding down, but that demons still infest the region and are being slowly battled. It will probably take a decade or so to make the region safe for travellers again, so for now, it’s still a dangerous, post-apocalyptic type place, infested with demons and other evils. Your players will be making brand new level 12 characters who are all members of the Crusade. They’ve fought battles against demons many of times before and are well-prepared for this mission. They’re hardy, brave, self-sacrificing folks who won’t flee from a fight. They’re… hardened. To create them you’ll be following all of the standard character creation and levelling up rules found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. As for gear, there’s a specific list of magical items they’ll have access to. In addition, they’ll get 100 gp to spend on anything they want. Its highly suggested you create a balanced and diverse party. This adventure is intended to test the limits and capabilities of mid/high level characters.
So who the heck are these people, and what do a bunch of crusaders have to the with Doomsday Dawn? In short, your Primary Characters are in need of information housed in an ancient ruin in the region and your Crusaders have been tasked with escorting them to the site, and protecting them while they’re there. These Crusaders have no idea whats going on with the overall plot line, which will be a bit of a refreshing change of pace. Upon arrival, the Primary Characters descend into the ruins to discover the information they need isn’t mobile. It’s not a book or a tablet. It’s all over the walls. They’re going to have to copy it. Your Crusaders will have to defend the ruins from demonic intruders while the Primary Characters are out of sight doing whatever that entails. It’s a difficult and thankless job. Note that you will NOT be playing your Primary Characters during this adventure at all. Only the Crusaders.
Now, onto the potential controversy. Note that the next paragraph after this contains SPOILERS. If you don’t want to know, don’t read it. It should be noted that the adventure specifically asks that GMs not tell their players the following piece of information. I totally understand why this is, but I disagree with the necessity for secrecy. I can honestly say that if I ran this for my family, without telling them the secret, the session would end with everyone very angry and upset. My kids would literally be in tears. No joke. I’m a firm believer that games should be fun. Tears and anger? Not what we’re aiming for. Because of this, I have one further piece of information to share with our readers. If you don’t want to know, definitely skip the rest of this section on the ‘Heroes of Undarin’ and head on down to the nice big words I’ve added that say ‘Spoiler over.’
As mentioned, this adventure is meant to test the limits of mid/high level characters. Most specifically, its designed to determine how much is too much. Your characters will fight wave after wave of demons. And in the end? It’s entirely expected they’ll die. All of them. Dead. It’s been stated that knowledge of this tidbit will cause players to create characters who are purposely made to ‘survive’ which could throw off the results of this playtest. Throwing off this calibration will do no one any good. That said, I personally believe that if a player knows what they’re getting into, and what’s at stake, they’ll play fair. Roleplaying games are a game about trust, and I trust my players, just like players should trust their GMs. Sending players into a certain death scenario without their knowledge is a breach of that trust. Therefore, I’m telling you. And when my family plays, I’m telling them. Your characters will die. I suggest you embrace the spirit of that. Embrace that self-sacrifice during character creation. Embrace your death scene and make it epic! Don’t make characters made to ‘win.’ Winning isn’t fighting to the end. Winning, in this instance, is making sure that the playtest receives accurate results. It’s being an honest player. So make yourself a team of crusaders, and enjoy pushing them to their limits and beyond. And when your doomed character meets their end, be happy you’ve had a chance to ensure that mid/high level play during Pathfinder Second Edition will be of a fair and challenging difficulty.
For more information on the Worldwound and its surround lands, check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Worldwound, or Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide. You can also read the novel: Pathfinder Tales: The Worldwound Gambit, written by Robin D. Laws.
The sixth (and second last) adventure in Doomsday Dawn is a definite change of pace. Entitled ‘Red Flags,’ this adventure is meant to test how fun and engaging social encounters, espionage, and skill based adventures can be at high levels of play. That’s not to say that there’s no combat in it. There is. But, that’s neither the point, nor the focus. The focus is on your skills, subtlety and guile. To that end you’ll make powerful level 14 characters who are members of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. Its recommended that they be characters whose role among the Order is to act as one of the following; archivist, diplomat, historian, researcher, spy, or something similar. Don’t make a character who’s geared towards combat. This is an interesting challenge that I’m very excited for. The gear they can utilize is a mix of gold, and specific magical objects, but it’s long, so I won’t write it all here.
These Agents of the Order are sent to a fancy gala on a volcanic island in the Shackles held by a white feathered tengu Free Captain by the name of Whark the Alabaster, the lord of Plumetown. They’re tasked with obtaining an important book from Whark’s treasury called The Last Theorem. Its hoped that the information contained in this book can help the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye (and your Primary Characters) stop the coming doomsday for good. The stakes are high! This adventure takes place after the end of the Skull and Shackles Adventure Path (which begins with Skull & Shackles: Book 1: The Wormwood Mutiny). It utilizes a neat custom map which is not included in the flip-mats. It looks like a lot of fun, but due to the nature of espionage style adventures, I’m going to refrain from saying any more on the matter than that.
Players looking for more information on the Shackles can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Isle of the Shackles, or Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea World Guide.
Which brings us to the end. The climax. The final chapter of Doomsday Dawn. It’s called ‘When The Stars Go Dark‘ and it is a finale in every sense of the word. It will be played by your Primary Characters, although they’ll be levelled up all the way to 17th level. They’ll have a chance to stop the Night Heralds and the Dominion of the Black, thereby preventing an apocalypse that would destroy all of Golarion. Perhaps they’ll triumph. And perhaps they’ll fail. Whatever the outcome, this is one fun, challenging adventure. It takes place in the present time (for Golarion) on a demiplane known as Ramlock’s Hallow. The purpose of this final playtest is to have fun! They want to know if the game is still enjoyable and challenging at high levels. So get in the game, and have a blast! Oh, and try to save Golarion while you’re at it.
The adventure itself is complex. I can say for certain that my kids will pretty much have no idea what’s going on. Haha. For them it will be more of a ‘point them at the bad guys and they’ll fight’ kind of scenario. That said, they’ll still enjoy it. Those of you who understand what’s going on will obviously get a lot more out of it than that. There’s a good variety of encounters, and getting to the end will involve more than just muscles. You’ll need to put on your thinking caps. I particuarly enjoyed the flavourful encounter with the Ashen Man.
I don’t want to give away too much more about this adventure. But, I will say, that I think it’s an epic conclusion to the Doomsday Dawn.
For more information on demiplanes be sure to pick up the awesome hardcover, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Planar Adventures.
And that’s a wrap!
That’s what you can expect from Doomsday Dawn.
It’s definitely a different style of ‘campaign’ than I expected. It’s longer, and more… disjointed. That said, it’s a lot of fun, and an imperative aspect of the Playtest. This adventure allows the folks over at Paizo to test out the aspects of the game they need help to calibrate. It allows all of you to have a say in the final product, while simultaneously helping them fine-tune the game balance.
I highly recommend that players interested in the Playetst find a group and play through Doomsday Dawn together. It’s my hope that this article can help people get excited about Doomsday Dawn, and head into it with appropriate expectations.
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on both the Playtest and your experiences playing Doomsday Dawn. If you’ve had a chance to play, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how it went!
Later this week we’ll take a look at the Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenarios, my family’s Pathfinder Playtest Characters, as well as the new Pathfinder Society Scenarios that were recently released for Season 10, and the new Starfinder Society Scenarios! In addition, we’ve got articles on Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Pact Worlds, and Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea on the horizon!
This month is going to be crazy!
Until next time,
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What about. summer, heat, July, as it is sung in one famous song by three guys, and it is quite natural that the dress stuck and it is rather.