Yesterday, I went over the first wave of Sinister Adventures‘ mini-pdfs, Indulgences. Something interesting I found out browsing their forums – if you’re logged in at the site, you can download a Razor Coast character sheet from the bottom of the Indulgence page. The download is not visible unless you’re registered and logged in. It’s a really nifty sheet, too, with a lovely pirate theme.
Here follow my opinions on the second wave of Indulgences. I am intentionally vague on the details of the adventures, to avoid spoilers. This is stuff that someone will want to run at some point. Like me.
Mysteries of the Razor Sea, by Nicolas Logue
Mysteries of the Razor Sea is a 14-page supplement of twelve small encounters and one short adventure for 1st-level characters, called “The Tale of the Seabear”.
The encounters are interesting and I could see myself dropping most of them into a campaign. There’s one with an albatross that’s especially cool.
“The Tale of the Seabear” is your average ghost ship module. It’s a strong piece of work, though I’d say it requires a bit of work to run properly. It’s got an interesting backstory, a working plot and strong atmosphere. It also has a nifty gimmick that really draws the player characters into the story. I could see myself kicking off a campaign with this adventure.
That said, there are a couple of niggling little things.
For one thing, the Seabear is described as a cog in the text, is illustrated as something with at least four masts, and has two masts in the battlemap. I’d fix this by calling it a brig, using the battlemap as it is, and not showing the illustration to anyone.
There’s another thing – the adventure begins with the PCs aboard a ship that then meets the ghost ship Seabear, and there’s a bit of a possessing spirit thing going on. However, the possible crew of the PCs’ ship is not mentioned anywhere. The module assumes four PCs (and indeed, would take a bit of work to play with more), which is not nearly enough to crew most vessels.
So, it’s a good adventure but it has a somewhat unfinished feel to it and would take some more work to run well. Still, for $2.50, you may find a better deal, but not very many of them.
Shrine of Frenzy, by Brendan Victorson and David Posener
Shrine of Frenzy is a 14-page adventure module for 7th-level characters. It’s a short but pretty good little side trek, with a nice illusion of choice and a balance between combat and social encounters. Also, a good chance for everyone to drown. This pirate stuff calls for Swim ranks. It’s refreshing.
In fact, I feel it has a very good example of what I call a “block test” encounter – an encounter that tests whether the party is smart enough not to try ramming the square block in the round hole, so to speak. I like a well crafted block test, because there’s a player type that I intensely dislike that always fails them.
There’s just one thing here that irks me to no end. The module features this spawn of Dajobas, a great big shark monster – called Iku-Tursas. Now, Iku-Tursas is a monster of Finnish mythology, a great sea monster that pesters Väinämöinen and the heroes of Kalevala when they are returning from the Northlands. “Tursas” is the Finnish word for octopus. There’s a certain dissonance when the name is applied to a shark. Iku-Turso has occasionally also been depicted as a sea giant of some sort (Kalevala of the Dogs by Mauri Kunnas; the Donald Duck comic Quest for Kalevala by Don Rosa), but not a shark.
If I use this, I’ll rename him Dakuwanga, after a shark god of Hawaiian mythology. Fits better with the style of the Tulita, too.
Still, it’s a pretty decent adventure.
Still Waters, by Richard Pett
The third adventure of the lot is Still Waters, a 16-page romp into a cursed swampland. It’s a very atmospheric piece and probably the best of this lot. There’s this colonial Louisiana feel, with plantations, slaves, and the huge where gators and strange creatures dwell. The author himself recommended on the Paizo forums that the theme for Southern Comfort be played during the adventure.
The start of the adventure lays out a flavourful setting with a couple of interesting NPCs, the investigation portion works well and has an appropriate amount of creepiness, and there are a couple of very cool combat encounters towards the end.
Were I to change anything in this, I’d probably lengthen the journey through the marshlands, making it a few days long, and make it a point to play it out both ways. There are a few resources I’d draw upon to do that, most notably the Living Greyhawk module COR7-19 Into the Mists, which really makes a trip through the marsh come alive.
The Warrior’s Way, by Nicolas Logue
The fourth Indulgence in the second wave is The Warrior’s Way, a seven-page pack of Tulita culture and associated crunchy bits.
The Tulita are Razor Coast’s resident native people reminiscent of Hawaiians, who are occasionally enslaved by plantation owners. They worship Pele, the Goddess of Fire and Wrack, and totem beasties like the Whale, the Dolphin and the Turtle. The backstory and cultural information on the Tulita is well written and intesting.
Then we come to the crunch. It starts with a pile of magic tattoos that you can apparently substitute for feats at levels six and nine. But… why weren’t they presented as feats, then? Strange twisting of the rules, this. I think I could substitute these for some of the tattoos available to the tattooed monk prestige class, though. Seems to fit very well with the Tulita themes. In Razor Coast, they’re the monks and martial artists.
Then there’s a number of new weapons. Unfortunately, none of them mention whether they’re simple, martial or exotic, which is kinda irritating. There’s also nonstandard rules language, and the pdf lacks the customary table for new weapons, all the attributes being expressed in rules text. They seem to be otherwise rather well balanced, though.
There’s also a new basic attack, throw, where, with a full-round action and a successful opposed grapple check, you may fling your enemy in any direction for a distance of five feet per point of Strength bonus you have. My feelings on this are mixed. On one hand, it’s an exceptionally cool combat manoeuvre, but I’m not sure how balanced it is. For now, though, I would include it in a game and see how it works.
Then there are twelve different feats, mostly monk type stuff with a bit of a fantastic bent. (Fortunately, despite being analogous to the Hawaiians, the Tulita do not employ the Kamehameha strike.)
Finally, there are a few variant monk class abilities for the Mai’kal, which is what Tulita monks are called. Neat stuff.
I think that overall, The Warrior’s Way does a very good job of recasting the D&D monk class in a pirate setting, making it fit in while remaining strange and foreign. Indeed, The Warrior’s Way does this in many ways better than core D&D. Good stuff.