Thanksgiving Come Really Late – Yet Another D&D Film in the Works

Then, some of us have turkey at Christmas dinner as well, so it’s not entirely misplaced.

I’d already hoped that the project would have died a quiet and deserved death since I heard about it a year or two ago, but it seems that it was not meant to be. They’re making a third Dungeons & Dragons movie, and the release date is December 2011. It’s apparently being made by  the same bloke who directed the second film, which I consider far better than the first one, reaching into cheap mediocrity. The original Courtney Solomon film, though, ranks as one of the worst movies I own.

So, Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness is about to become a horrible reality – and you can be a part of it! They’re having a promotion on the WotC website, where you can make a character on their DDI character builder tool and perhaps win a role as an extra in the film, in a battle scene.

Of course, you have to pay for a DDI account and the contest is only open to Americans and Canadians. Then, I’m not entirely certain that it’d be even legal in Finland. (Something to do with having to buy a product to be able to enter, I think. Raffles and lotteries operate by different rules, of course.)

After the last one, I’m pretty much ready to call this one crap right now. Naturally, I’ll still watch it, and I’ll buy it when it comes out in Blu-ray in Europe.

And yeah, that’s Blu-ray, because judging by the speed Wrath of the Dragon God made it to our shores, the DVD format will have died out and Blu-rays will have become affordable by the time Book of Vile Darkness will see an European release. Not that there’s anything to be impatient about.

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Rise of the Runelords Review and Retrospective, Part II

Here is the second part of my Rise of the Runelords review. A week ago, I went over the first three modules. Now, I discuss the last three. Again, if you have plans to participate in the Rise of the Runelords campaign as a player, you should not read any further – here there be SPOILERS.

I find that the campaign most naturally divides into these two halves, between the third and the fourth modules.

First of all, there is a decided shift in tone and style. The first three modules can all be pegged as having a horror theme – Gremlins -style comedy horror in Burnt Offerings, haunted house and slasher flick stuff in The Skinsaw Murders and hillbilly horror in the vein of Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes in The Hook Mountain Massacre. The fourth module, on the other hand, The Fortress of the Stone Giants is more of a traditional, even classical, dungeon crawl, and the fifth one can be seen as a more modern take on the same concept. The finale returns to the horror theme in its first third, but once you get to Xin-Shalast, it fades into the background.

This is not to say that they couldn’t be run as horror or that they’re comedic, but with the exception of the Vekkers’ Cabin sequence in The Spires of Xin-Shalast, the theme is not strongly present and a Game Master wishing for such must prepare and inject the horror himself.

Certainly, run in a certain way, any dungeon crawl can be horror – Lamentations of the Flame Princess, for instance, runs quite well with this assumption. However, D20 games tend to assume a rather high level of sheer combat ability from PCs, which means that the idea of combat, in and of itself, is not a source of fear, since there’s a reasonable expectation that you’re gonna come out on top. You have to throw in something extra.

The annoying thing here is that from the fourth module onward, the adventures also contain adversaries from the Cthulhu Mythos, like hounds of Tindalos and denizens of Leng, yet lack other trappings that would really make it horror. I am sad to say that it’s pretty much exactly what James Edward Raggi IV said on his blog a couple of days ago.

Secondly, there’s a natural break for the characters at this point in the campaign. Burnt Offerings starts from the Swallowtail Festival, celebrated on the first day of autumn, and if the GM keeps track off the passage of time, depending on how leisurely he has paced the game, winter should be fast approaching by the time that Barl Breakbones, the endboss of The Hook Mountain Massacre, falls. The flow of the campaign makes it natural at this point for the PCs to spend the winter in their brand new keep, Fort Rannick. Also, I think the assault of the stone giants that kicks off The Fortress of the Stone Giants takes place more naturally in the spring – giants or no, traversing the Storval Stair in the heart of winter is just suicidal.

The end of The Hook Mountain Massacre also fell very conveniently for our last game session in spring, before the the summer holidays forced us to take a break in the game, and the game resumed in the spring of the Varisia, early autumn of our world. The “Keeping the Keep” article from The Hook Mountain Massacre also offered us content for a leisurely recap session before we kicked off The Fortress of the Stone Giants.

Thirdly, I feel there is an unfortunate dip in quality between the third and fourth modules, and due to a variety of reasons I’m outlining below, the second half just does not shine as brightly as the first one.

The Finns in the audience may be interested in that Blue_Hill has wrapped up his own Rise of the Runelords campaign and tells about it in his blog.

Fortress of the Stone Giants

Let’s be frank – I think this is the weakest of the series. It is not, I should hasten to add, a bad module, but rather, it represents a type of module that I am not a fan of. The majority of the module is a long, hack & slashy dungeon crawl, and while there are some things to spice it up, I ended up removing quite a few fights from Jorgenfist.

The module begins with a stone giant raid on the town of Sandpoint. The giants are accompanied by the campaign’s first dragon, Longtooth. The raid was a hectic running battle on several fronts, and the leader of the stone giants, the ranger Teraktinus, was a worthy adversary (the dragon fled, and while they encountered it later, they didn’t get around to slaying it until the campaign’s epilogue). This is the strongest part of the module.

After that comes a hunt for the raid’s survivors and a fight with the rearguard, which we ended up skipping altogether because the party managed to extract the location of Jorgenfist from a captured enemy and took a different route to Jorgenfist.

The approach to Jorgenfist is well done. You have a fortress surrounded by camps of giants and ogres, hundreds of them, with several ways to get in. The module even provides numbers for the tribes, in case a party is mad enough to try taking one on or whittling down their numbers. Entering Jorgenfist, in the end, is far more interesting than most of the content within.

While there is the possibility of roleplaying your way through certain encounters in Jorgenfist and forging an alliance with a disgruntled stone giant leader, I still feel there is too much combat in here, and with the kobold barbarian and the redcaps it veers dangerously into Christmas calendar dungeon territory (“And behind door number three… 1d6 wolves!”). I’m not a fan. Someone else might be, but even with the variety, I feel there’s just too many combat encounters. I am also aware that when you’re presenting what amounts to a military base, you also kinda have to put in enough enemies to make it look populated – if killing everyone on the premises is easy, it’s not credible.

The final battle with Mokmurian, however, is well done and memorable. He’s a lone wizard, which usually is a recipe for a very short fight, but he’s also well designed, with a good spell selection and more or less foolproof alarm systems. Oh, and he’s a stone giant, with a stone giant’s Con modifier. He was the longest-lasting single adversary in the entire campaign, and challenged the party without overwhelming them. For this, I salute Wolfgang Baur.

As extras in Fortress of the Stone Giants, we get articles on the dragons and stone giants of Golarion.

Sins of the Saviors

The fifth module of the series is even more of a dungeon crawl than Fortress of the Stone Giants. It starts off with a small dungeon, featuring a pushover baddie, leads into a dragon fight and then into the Runeforge, which is a large and interesting dungeon complex themed around the seven deadly sins and the Thassilonian theory of magic.

There are seven different wings in the Runeforge, all of which have been led at one time by a specialist wizard of great power and a subordinate of one of the Runelords of ancient Thassilonia.

Each of the wings has a magical aura that is keyed to the sin and grants bonuses to characters if that is their “dominant” sin, and penalties if their dominant sin is opposed to the sin of the wing. The dominant sin of a character is determined by gut instinct, mostly. I kept a chart in the beginning of the campaign, but later concluded that the characters’ predilections are obvious enough. As I recall, we had two wraths, a pride, a greed and a sloth.

It was interesting on the idea level, but in the execution, I felt the this aspect of the theme could’ve been played up stronger.

As it is, though, the Runeforge is an interesting adventure location, with nifty NPCs, some of whom the party may be able to talk with before killing them (and probably should, because killing everyone, no questions asked, will leave them with the equivalent of a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with two thirds of the picture taken up by a clear blue sky).

One cool thing I ran with was a trap at the entrance to the wing of greed. It’s a gas that first turns you into a goldfish and then teleports you into a pond. The party’s barbarian fell victim to it, and when the others started looking for him in the ponds (after getting the details of what the trap does from some water mephits lairing nearby), it turned out that Skrym wasn’t the only one goldfished. So, I rolled some dice and came up with some numbers of what kind of people they were rescuing when they took a couple of days to slap break enchantment spells on fish. Most of them were footsoldiers from the other wings, but there was a bunch of adventurers, whose stats I got by picking D20 books at random from the shelves behind me and rolling Will saves. If they had retained their intelligence during their stint as goldfish – centuries and millennia in most cases – they were insane, but if they hadn’t, they were merely disoriented and befuddled. The party built up a bit of a retinue there, who then ended up as a cadre of officers in Fort Rannick when the party returned from the Runeforge.

Sins of the Saviors has a bit of a side trek feel to it, but it’s a pretty good dungeon crawl in that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and for once, camping out for a week in the dungeon makes sense.

There are two additional articles in this adventure. The first is an article on the magic of Thassilon, which is a few spells and magic items for each of the sins, plus the runeforged weapon enhancement, which is the thing the party is after in the dungeon (they are bane weapons against specialist wizards and certain other things and resist the magics of that type – having a couple of dominant runeforged weapons made the party’s lives a lot easier in Spires of Xin-Shalast).

The second article is about Lamashtu, the demon goddess of monsters and abominations. Not bad.

Spires of Xin-Shalast

Finally, we come to the sixth module, the grand finale.

The module can be roughly divided into two halves – the search for the path to Xin-Shalast, and Xin-Shalast itself. The eponymous city is the capital of the former kingdom of Shalast, the Thassilonian kingdom of greed. It is a Xanadu-like place located high in the Kodar Mountains, nearly inaccessible and hidden these past ten thousand years, yet occupied by tribes of giants and lamia-kin, and some rather more horrible, unique adversaries – and, of course, Karzoug the Claimer, the Runelord of Greed and the Big Bad Evil Guy of the entire adventure path.

Spires of Xin-Shalast is as epic as they come. While it’s heavy on combat, there’s enough variety and atmosphere that it doesn’t become stale, and that variety is executed in a way that avoids the Christmas calendar syndrome, with the possible exception of this one critter with a statblock spread out over three pages that is described as an “advanced dread vampire decapus sorcerer 10”. I didn’t even try to convert that one.

The search for the path half mostly consists of the Vekker Cabin, a haunted miner’s cabin, inhabited only by the unquiet spirits of cannibalistic dwarves who fell victim to their own greed (and a wendigo who still dwells nearby). This was strongly atmospheric, and saw a return of the haunt mechanic from The Skinsaw Murders. Good stuff.

Then, eventually, the characters get to Xin-Shalast, there is lots of fighting and trying to survive in a city that partially occupies an elevation over a thousand feet higher than Mount Everest and has been built by and for giants, in a location where the wall between dimensions is thin and stuff leaks over from Leng. So, for an adventure location, you couldn’t ask for a better place.

There’s a nice variety enemies, the constant feeling of a hostile city, some really nice and memorable bad guy henchmen, and finally, Karzoug himself, still trapped beyond the mortal plane. I felt he was quite appropriately statted out. He’s tough, and dangerous, but unlikely to cause a total party kill on the surprise round. In fact, he only managed to kill the druid’s wolf in my game, falling after some five rounds of battle. It’s the tragedy of a single enemy – even with all the quickened spells, he still doesn’t have enough actions to fend off all the adversaries. Still, it didn’t feel too easy, but just right. A very suitable conclusion to the campaign.

The additional materials in Spires of Xin-Shalast are an article on Karzoug himself and his magic items and minor artifacts, and another on surviving the hazards atop the roof of the world. I especially like the concept of the “death zone“. A bit of quirky realism like that can go a long way.

Conclusion

And thus ends my report on the Rise of the Runelords. It was a fun campaign, and while it was not perfect, it was very, very good, and we had many memorable sessions with it. We’re now preparing for the Serpent’s Skull adventure path, with a party lineup that consists of a haunted Chelaxian colonial mistress in the best Victorian tradition, her flirty halfling sorcerer manservant with the blood of snakes in his veins, a half-orc barbarian from the jungles who worships the Ape Satan, a Varisian thief who died and was raised in Rise of the Runelords and may develop a multiple personality disorder when he starts dabbling in alchemy, and a half-elf who’s in love with his bow.

I expect Edward W. Saïd would have things to say about how that campaign is going to turn out.

But I digress. Rise of the Runelords is good stuff, but if I were to run it again (not happening in the foreseeable future), I’d pay more attention to the horror elements in the second half of the campaign and try to run the entire adventure path as straight-up horror.  The ingredients are all there, but only parts of the three first modules are really presented as such.

It’s the first of the adventure paths that I’ve finished, and I hope there will be many more to come. As a whole, though the quality fluctuates through the series, it still holds up as a splendidly crafted campaign, with a good story, a nifty villain, and some memorable locations and adventures. From best to worst (or, really, least good), I’d rank them in the following order: Burnt Offerings, The Skinsaw Murders, Hook Mountain Massacre, Spires of Xin-Shalast, Sins of the Saviors, and Fortress of the Stone Giants. All of them have stuff worth looting for your own games, though, and none of them are exactly bad.

It also helps that there is a vibrant fan community around the adventure paths, and extra material, Pathfinder RPG conversions, advice and ideas area easy to come by. The popularity and strong community also creates that sort of culture of shared experience that D&D used to have in the 80’s, when everybody played the same modules. Take any D&D player of a certain age, and they’re pretty much guaranteed to have played at least a part of the G series, or White Plume Mountain, or Tomb of Horrors, or the D series, or Ravenloft, or at least Keep on the Borderlands. I can’t really think up any module from the 90’s that would have a similar status, and nothing really comes up from the 3E era, either. Maybe The Sunless Citadel, since it was released so early. Maybe. I think Pathfinder RPG has something similar going on, thanks to the internet and the general high quality and visibility of the adventure paths.

Well, that’s all folks, for now. I’m off to write my RPG Superstar entry.

Rise of the Runelords Review and Retrospective, Part I

So, like I mentioned in the last post, I ran the whole of Rise of the Runelords. That was the afterglow post, and now I’ll get down to the business of reviewing the modules and giving some notes of things I encountered or changed when I ran them. Since six modules is a lot of stuff, I’ll spread this out over a few posts. If you intend to play the adventure path at some point, you should probably be advised that this post contains SPOILERS.

We played the first session of the campaign in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, and after Pathfinder RPG came out between sessions, converted and played the rest of the campaign under that. The campaign was originally released using the 3.5 ruleset, but I did not find the conversion too difficult. I typed out or copied most of the statblocks from the modules and other sources into .doc files and printed them out, so I’d have references for all the adversaries right there in front of me behind the screen and would not have to start flipping books. With a very few exceptions, I converted everything from the ground up, and even for the exceptions I jotted down stuff like Combat Manoeuvre Bonus and Defence, plus a Perception score if I figured it might be needed. Those exceptions usually arose from a lack of time to convert some of the more complex creatures from the ground up (especially a couple of evil henchmen in the sixth module come to mind). If I anticipated the use of random encounter tables, I usually also compiled stats for those, which may veer into the obsessive compulsive territory, but at least now I have the stats in an easy-to-use format should I need them in the future.

In addition to the adventure modules themselves, I had a number of helpful sources for advice, handouts, errata and notes on how the modules play out. On the Mekanismi wiki, where I host my campaign’s home page, there were the RotRL campaigns of Blue_Hill (of Never Play Poker with the GM) and Navdi (of Blowing Smoke). These were handy to have and the discussion archives allowed me to learn from their experiences. Incidentally, the campaign website is really valuable tool for anyone running a longer campaign. During the campaign, we updated character sheets on the wiki, agreed on game times, and at least tried to do all that fiddly downtime number crunching there, like keeping track of gold, selling loot and some of the magic item creation. I also used it to deliver some of the larger infodumps on the plot and the world. I’ll next be running the Serpent’s Skull adventure path, and we’re using the wiki to discuss the party composition and bounce character concepts.

Additionally, for anyone running a Pathfinder adventure path, I cannot sufficiently recommend Paizo’s adventure path forums. Each path has its own forum and each module has a thread of its own for GM material, usually stickied on top of the page, and those are treasure troves of fan-created content – maps, handouts, PFRPG conversions of everything in the first four modules, fan errata.

Before I get down to the details of reviewing the individual modules, I feel I should say a word about the adventure format. The Pathfinder Adventure Path modules aren’t just canned scenarios. In addition to the adventure itself, running usually some 46 pages long, each module also contains a couple of articles on setting elements to supplement the module, a piece of short fiction, and a bestiary with a handful of new monsters. The bestiary has a long format for the monster entries, recalling the Monstrous Manuals of the 1990’s, with their lavishly detailed monster ecologies. The page counts add up to a total of 96 pages. The additional content is very useful and made it easier for me to add colour to the setting and try and bring the world around the player characters alive. Whenever the adventurers ventured off the beaten path, I could just check the local gazetteer from one of the modules and see what they run into.

In addition to the six modules, the adventure path also has a player’s guide, available as a free PDF, which advises the players about the campaign to come, what sort of characters work well, and some ideas on what kind of adventurers fit Varisia. There’s also a handful of feats for native Varisian characters. Starting with the next campaign, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Paizo started using campaign traits instead of feats, later forming with the advent of Second Darkness into the more formalized system of traits, first available as a PDF on the Paizo website and finally included in Advanced Player’s Guide, which finally presented a series of campaign traits for Rise of the Runelords. I feel the campaign traits are a handy way to tie the party members to the setting and especially the beginning of the campaign.

Burnt Offerings

Burn Offerings, by James Jacobs, opens up the adventure path, as well as the Pathfinder game line, with a bang. This is the module that started it all, and I have a hard time finding anything negative to say about it. The villains are memorable, the setting is rich, and at this early stage in the campaign, it seems like anything is possible, and the town of Sandpoint loves you, and the frontier is out there, waiting for you to conquer it.

Burnt Offerings begins with a consecration of the new cathedral in the town of Sandpoint, but the party is interrupted by a goblin attack. After defending the town from the goblins, the PCs are deputized while the sheriff goes to Magnimar, the local big city, to get reinforcements. The adventurers will run into a plot against the town, an evil cult, and ghosts of an evil empire that fell ten thousand years ago.

There’s a balance of dungeon crawling, city adventuring and some investigation, and the atmosphere injected into the module is awesome. The stars of the show, of course, are the goblins, who are a mix of Gremlins and Critters – small, sorta humorous, not very intelligent, but evil, cunning and just a bit insane. They’re a low-level adversary that’ll keep your players on their toes. James Jacobs has managed to reinvent the common D&D goblin, usually thought of as merely XP on two feet, and given it a memorable personality. This later became more or less one of Paizo’s trademarks, with the ogres of The Hook Mountain Massacre and eventually the entire Classic Monsters Revisited and the books that followed. You can tweak the goblins to your preference, either playing up the laughs, or making them really creepy. I preferred to strike a balance, mostly using them as a vehicle for jokes and gags, but I used the horror encounter from the module as it foreshadowed the eventual straight-up horror content of The Skinsaw Murders and The Hook Mountain Massacre.

Personally, I ran Burnt Offerings pretty much as written, by the book. I saw no reason to change anything except where the actions of the PCs went beyond the script and I had to improvise, such as when they retreated from the final dungeon after engaging the BBEG in combat but then fleeing from her. She was not a moron, so she took a hike while the heroes were licking their wounds, and the contents of Burnt Offerings and the second adventure, The Skinsaw Murders, gave me a solid framework of material upon which to build the next session where they chased her across the Sandpoint hinterlands.

The extra materials in Burnt Offerings are a gazetteer of the town of Sandpoint, where the adventure is mostly based, another article on the ancient empire of Thassilon that dominated the region some ten thousand years ago and whose ruins are still scattered around the landscape. Thassilon later becomes a major theme in the campaign, and in the end I just dumped the entire text of the article on my players once the characters found an old Thassilonian library. Thirdly, there’s an introduction to the Pathfinders, which sorta starts off the Pathfinder Journal fiction series.

Overall, I consider Burnt Offerings to be one of the finest beginning modules I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few really excellent ones. The module’s plot works, it’s not too railroady, and the town of Sandpoint is really well fleshed out. Along with the material in The Skinsaw Murders and The Hook Mountain Massacre, we’re provided with enough stuff to set ten campaigns of our own in the region.

The Skinsaw Murders

The second module of the series is a mix of slasher horror and haunted house, with a just plain horror in the BBEG fight when she takes the group apart. The action flows more or less seamlessly from Burnt Offerings, and can actually even be started before the first module is over, if you’re good at juggling two books and your players can show some initiative.

The Skinsaw Murders presents us with the haunts mechanic, which later found its way into the GameMastery Guide. I think it’s an interesting and functional way to make a haunting scary in a D&D-type game. If you just throw in a ghost, the players will know that it’ll have this, this and this ability, it’ll be vulnerable to this and this, and it’ll be resistant or immune to these things. Also, if it has hit points, you can kill it. The haunts have none of those. They’re creepy effects that will trigger when you come into the room or walk past the suit of armour or whatever, and then you roll a save or get toasted, or have an uncontrollable urge to jump out of the window, or the like. It worked marvellously at my table. Throughout the house you are also revealed glimpses of the house’s terrible history. The Misgivings chapter of The Skinsaw Murders is pure gold.

The events after that in Magnimar aren’t so hot, though, which has mostly to do with encounter difficulty. The major combat encounters once the party moves on from the haunted house include the cultist leader Justice Ironbriar, who’s a rogue working alone, which is always a pushover, and his henchmen, encountered on the lower floor, are six rogue 1/cleric 1’s, against a party who’ll be fifth or sixth level at this point. Once the party begins the assault on the Shadow Clock, the climb up the tower feels like properly challenging, with the Scarecrow golem and some mooks upstairs dropping a bell on the party, but then there’s Xanesha, the lamia matriarch and Big Bad of the adventure, and, well… while my party, when I ran it, did manage to kick her ass without losing any of their own, I’ve heard enough reports of her being terribly, terribly dangerous to give them credit. She’s quite capable of inflicting a TPK, and one suggestion I’ve heard repeated is replacing Xanesha with her sister Lucrecia from the next module and letting the party face the tougher Xanesha when they’re themselves a couple of levels higher.

In addition to the adventure itself, The Skinsaw Murders contains a gazetteer of the city of Magnimar, where much of the action takes place (and in this case the hometown of two party members) and an article on the goddess Desna, Golarion’s goddess of travellers, the stars and dreams. Finally, there’s the first instalment of the journal of Eando Kline, which ran until the end of the Second Darkness adventure path. Kline himself makes a personal appearance in a later adventure path as well.

In conclusion, even though the latter half of the adventure has some issues with encounter difficulty, the plot works and if the GM is up to it, the adventure can have a really creepy atmosphere. The issues, once noticed, can be easily fixed (now, if the party encounters Ironbriar with his henchmen in a place where manoeuvring is possible, he becomes a different beast entirely), and the haunted house sequence is up there with Music from a Darkened Room in the top list of haunted house modules.

The Hook Mountain Massacre

And we come to the third part of the Rise of the Runelords. The Hook Mountain Massacre occasionally goes over the top, but that’s mostly because RPGs have been family friendly for so long that the top isn’t very high in the first place. However, if your players would find the films Deliverance or Hills Have Eyes uncomfortable, they might not like this module.

Me, I was like a kid in a candy store.

In The Hook Mountain Massacre, the party follows the trail of clues from the previous module to the small village of Turtleback Ferry, where they will encounter the ogres of Golarion.

Golarion ogres, much like Golarion goblins from Burnt Offerings, are a reimagined version of the same old enemy. The stats are the same, but the fluff and the flavour have been rewritten (though I can’t for the life of me actually remember there being anything written about ogres in the first place). The rewriting paints them as complete and utter monsters with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, who raise rape and incest to a religious fetish, especially like the way elves scream and play games where they throw axes at each other and the first one to lose a finger loses. Nicolas Logue has managed to make the ogres utterly terrifying in just about every aspect. The crown jewel of the adventure is the homestead of the inbred Graul half-ogre family, which I feel dirty and bad for liking. After reading it, I spent a while wondering that if this was what they printed, what was so bad in the original that they had to censor it, like James Jacobs noted in the foreword. Well, it turns out, this was.

Though the retaking of Fort Rannick from an ogre tribe and the assault on Hook Mountain can easily slip into plain old hack & slash, and the sidetrek into the Shimmerglens to help a nymph queen feels a bit superfluous and far too brief (I think this is something that was cut down for length), it’s still an excellent, creepy and strongly atmospheric module.

Accompanying the adventure, there’s the article “Keeping the Keep”, for advice on running the fortress that the adventurers are given to run after reclaiming it from the Kreeg tribe. We got one session of play out of that article. Came as the first session after the summer break and allowed us to refresh our memories of what the hell we were doing in peace, get the bullshit out of the way and then begin the next adventure a week later. There’s also a gazetteer on Varisia, the region where Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne and part of Second Darkness take place. With the different gazetteers included with the adventure path volumes, you have a pretty decent campaign setting on the region for your own games.

Though The Hook Mountain Massacre seems to have been edited with a heavy hand to get it to fit the page count and between Fort Rannick and the final assault on Hook Mountain the ogre killing got a bit old, it’s still quite a worthwhile adventure. Hell, it’s worth it for the Graul farmstead alone. Might use a parental advisory sticker, though.

And thus concludes the first half of my Rise of the Runelords review.