Pathfinder is a roleplaying game where a group of players sit around a table playing through an adventure. This article is the second in a series detailing my thoughts on a set storyline (called an Adventure Path) which is new for each season. Each subsequent article covers another season (storyline) of play. The first couple of adventure paths are written with the rules from Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 by Wizards of the Coast and are compatible with the Pathfinder ruleset later created by Paizo to continue their line of products.
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, including Mythic playtest (Paizo, converted from 3.5 on the fly)
Timeframe: 2nd of October 2012 to the 24th of June 2014
Total Sessions: 34
Gaming Group: Tuesday Night (fortnightly)
Campaign: Season 2 – Curse of the Crimson Throne
Experience: As obtained from storyline milestones
Special Campaign Rules: Harrow mechanic
Note: conversion of 3.5 to Pathfinder for play, session notes in OneNote, tabletop environment in D20Pro.
Impressions of the Harrow mechanic
The harrow mechanic is based around a deck of cards that you can buy and provides a form of prophecy for the characters as well as a mechanical advantage related to the prophecy. In certain parts of the story the characters also find a stray card that provides them with another bonus.
The cards also have very nice artwork and each card has special meaning. For each of the suits there is a card representing each of the nine alignments.
The Liar (chaotic evil, Charisma) is love at its most treacherous. This is not the love that moves mountains – this is the love that rips the heart in two and causes lovers to leap to their deaths. Aligned it can mean obsession, unrequited passion, or doomed love. Misaligned, the card can indicate a new relationship beginning, although disguised as something much less beautiful.
Players Guide (also free PDF)
Useful info for the players to get a copy of, though its stats are D&D 3.5. Contains:
- Map of Korvosa (starting town)
- Map of Varisia (starting country)
- Korvosa – Overview of the city
- Adventurers – Overview of Races and Classes
- Equipment – New items specific to the setting
- Traits – Campaign specific bonuses tied to the storyline in the first book as a hook to get players to have a united background.
Guide to Korvosa
This is a must have for any games master telling you about the city in detail as this is where a majority of the campaign will be based. This is a good GM guide and if you are running the setting it is a must have resource and provides a good background on people and locations in the city.
- Introduction – Over view and regional map
- Places – Important Locations
- People – Important People
- History – Description of the city’s history after founding
- Secrets – About the places and people in Korvosa
- Appendix – Notable people, random encounters and a pull out map
Book 7 – Edge of Anarchy (9 Sessions)
This book expects the characters to gain enough experience to go from 1st level. It acts as introduction to Korvosa and helping the characters become people of importance in the coming events.
My first issue with this book is the names which are the bane of my GM’ing experience. Long and complicated and while nice to have a setting where the names are not based on English the Spanish style kept tripping me up and while I find cursive pretty it is not as easy to read. I kept having trouble telling which of the NPC’s was which by the names and was constantly referencing them to know who they are.
The adventure then starts its decent into madness of the city going to hell there are various encounters that can either be taken in a light hearted manner or a decent into horror. This has become something I have noticed with the adventure paths is some of them if pushed can be very disturbing. And for some games that is okay but I prefer the lighter approach and using the disturbing as justification for the hero’s action in making the setting a better place. On an interesting note there was an amazing encounter with a shark, rules on unconsciousness and drowning.
I did grant the characters holdings in the city as part of their reward for helping out and to give them some stake in the city to see to its well being.
- 7 part Adventure
- Horrow – how to use the harrow cards in the game
- People of the Road – details of the Varisian humans.
- Pathfinder’s Journal – The Burn Run
- Pregen Characters at level 1: Ezren (male human wizard), Seelah (female human paladin), Harsk (male dwarf ranger) and Lem (male halfling bard)
Book 8 – Seven Days to the Grave (9 Sessions)
This book expects the character to gain enough experience go from 4th level. The interesting themes in this book is plague, loss and death. Being hero’s of the city put the group into a position to try and save the population or at least contain the epidemic as much as possible.
This sets the characters up against the Red Mantis assassins and leads them to confront the cause of the disease. This does have some points where you can use the contacts from the previous book to tug at the emotions and also furthers the political appointments of the characters in the city.
My players worked to help find the cause of the plague and make moral choices on behalf of the city; such as when to cut off plague infested regions from the rest of the city. This caused them to try and advance their businesses and look after the good of the people at the
- 5 part Adventure
- Plague and Pestilence – The diseases of the setting and how to deal with them
- Abadar – the god known as the Master of the First Vault, or the banker dude as referred to by one of my players
- Pathfinder’s Journal – The Bloodworks Incident
- Bestiary – Cool new monsters including Nosferatu, Holy constructs, new undead and deamons
- Pregen characters now up to level 4
Book 9 – Escape from Old Korvosa (4 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from 8th level. While the title might suggest this is all about an escape, its more about where the story ends, than the theme of the module.
The story opens with the assassination attempt on the queen and her using powers unknown to survive a fatal wound and still take out her assassin. One of the party members old friends tells them they have some useful information regarding the queen and then disappears somewhere in Old Korvosa. There are more interactions with the Red Mantis assassins leading to the nobility based out of the Old Korvosa area at Palace Arkona.
My players in this module were surprised by the events of the story and spent most of the session chasing rumours until they are defeated at the palace and forced to flee the city in search of the Shoanti who used to live where the city of Korvosa now stands.
- 3 part adventure
- Faces of the Earthbound Evils – A Guide to the Rakshasas
- The Red Mantis – More information on the mantis assassins
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Thin Air
- Bestiary – The Mantis God himself, more outsiders and undead
- Pregen characters now at level 7
Book 10 – A History of Ashes (6 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from 10th level. Now that the characters have left the city of Korvosa behind they must survive in the lands of the Shoanti; exploring those areas around the city in search of information on an ancient evil encroaching on Korvosa.
To do this they must make friends with the enemies of Korvosa and gain membership of the Shaonti tribe that has the information they seek. Then choices to be made, moral and otherwise, with their new friends at risk while still needing the information they hold to save their city.
My players had a lot of side quests to do here to gain the good will of the tribe, and during those one players unfortunately told the group during the session that was not how the encounter was written, breaking table etiquette by talking about the source material that beyond player knowledge. This is not something that occurs very often but it does happen. Besides this they still managed to join then save the clan gaining the secret knowledge they needed to save their city.
- 6 part adventure
- The Cinderlands – The Fires of hte Storval Plateau, a description of the Shoanti lands.
- People of the Storval Plateau – The Shoanti way of life and details on the seven clans.
- Pathfinder’s Journal – The Storm Breaks
- Bestiary – More creatures of undead, magical beasts, aberration types.
- Pregen Characters to level 10
Book 11 – Skeletons of Scarwall (4 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from 12th level. A quest for a magical item to save them from the evil spirit in possession of the city. Can they brave an accursed castle, find the item and return to Korvosa?
This was a short adventure, with most of it centred around the castle and roleplaying opportunities with my group was reduced. This accelerated the dungeon crawl of the castle which they completed in a less memorable fashion than the rest of the campaign. At this level of play either the encounters were too easy or on the verge of wiping out the party.
- 3 part adventure
- The Hold of Belkzen – A detailed look at the region where the adventure is next set.
- Zon-Kuthon – The Midnight Lord, with more details on the god and his followers. As they make an appearance in earlier storylines, this should be read early on in the story.
- Pathfinder’s Journal – A friend in need
- Bestiary – more creatures of types undead, aberrations, outsider, dragon
- Pregen characters from level 12
Book 12 – Crown of Fangs (3 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from 14th level. With the artefact in hand the heroes are to return to Korvosa and find it a fallen city. Will they be able to join up with the resistance and start a rebellion. The last act of the story is an attempt to stop a great evil from arising.
So my players put in a lot of effort to take back the city, working with various groups and taking out all the opponents along the way. Then they make it to the final encounter and one shot the big bad, which triggers another event to happen which they also stop. So without giving away how it was all done it was a very anti-climatic run; very much the opposite to Rise of the Runelords in which everyone died. Here they wiped the floor and then some with many of the PC’s not needed in the final encounter. Tactically this was a very weak part of the storyline and hopefully with the release of the revised version it will be more challenging.
- 3 part adventure
- Relics of Kazavon – seven artefacts of atrocity
- Harrow Deck of Many Things – details on a new magical deck of cards
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Pink like me
- Bestary – contains types from constructs, outsiders, magical beast
- Preview of Second Darkness (next Adventure Path)
- Pregen Characters from level 14
Curse of the Crimson Throne Map Folio
This provides an excellent map of the city. The other game are maps are okay and handy when running the game but it is missing a map of the country Varisia that was in the previous adventure path.
This set provides some nice maps to pull out and show the players for each of the story points. Includes a good map of the city.
Curse of the Crimson Throne Dice
These dice a good though they have the same symbol on all the maximum number locations on all the dice which can be a little confusing.
GameMastery – Curse of the Crimson Throne Item Cards
There are some nice imagery based on the setting. This works well with the other item cards and recommended for adding a little flavour to the tabletop.
These cards are interesting and if you used them as handouts for things the characters find during the storyline it can help with the immersion in the story for both games master and players. The saying of a picture can tell a thousand words is true when you have such nice artwork.
Due to the failings of the characters as part of the Rise of the Runelords, I opened up the game to the mythic playtest and we gave it a good try gaining levels of mythic for achievements in the storyline.
This lead to inequality between players and their characters as some became more mythic than others. But it also lead to encounters being easier at later level and the final encounter being a walk through without a challenge.
I will go deeper into mythic adventures in another post, so now just pointing out that it provides I power increase at higher levels (especially when players misinterpret the rules) to make encounter too easy.
Conclusion: This was an interesting storyline, while the ending was disappointing due to the ease of the encounter, I am looking forward to revisiting the storyline again as part of the Pathfinder revised storylines and with the Pathfinder 2 ruleset when it is released in August.