Monday, May 23, 2016

Savage Tide 11 & 12 The LIghtless Depths

The Quick Version since I have fallen behind.

After the battle of Farshore the leadership question of the colony needed to be settled. The Mayornenshi faction spread rumors connecting Lavinia to her her undead brother and a family curse. The PCs chose to stay out of the politics and Lord Manderlay won the election easily.

One of his first tasks was to clear the trade route back to the mainland and asked the PC to remove a Dragon Turtle that was known to live on the north end of the island. The PCs, spotting a cave while trying to lure the dragon out, went to investigate. They stumbled upon a settlement of diseased troglodytes who were dispatched easily. The troglodytes were dispatched with ease and two captives were found: a feeble minded human in rags and a healthy troglodyte. The human was restored and he said we was a missionary from Garund. He was spreading the word of Sarenrae and was attacked by strange men with animated skins on their back. Next thing he knew he was here.

The troglodyte was a member of the tribe but never received the blessing of their god (the disease). He began to suspect that something was off an was imprisoned when he spoke out. He told the PCs of the Shadow Pearls. The tribe were the middle men between the Lords of Dread below and the Crimson Fleet. Uzeye recommended the they travel down and speak with the Father who could tell them more.

Along the way The PCs did battle with a Roper and visited the Mongrel settlement of Bargas. There they were shown a petrified fish that was actually an Aboleth that had dried out and was in "Long Dreaming" a state of petrified hibernation. The was likely due to the Cerulean Curtain, a blue ghostly wall that forced sea water out of the area.

The PCs continued their trip down into the earth under the island. They finally reached the temple partially willed with slimy, scummy water and spoke with the Father. The ghostly troglodyte told them of the war of old - a conflict between the Olman civilization above and the Aboleth below. After many honorific sacrifices Tlaloc, the reptilian god of Rain, intervened and created the Tear of Tlaloc. This was dropped into the Aboleth city of Golismorga forcing the water out and putting most of the Aboleth into a state of hibernation.

After many years the aquatic race of Kopru moved in and tried to learn the Aboleth's secrets. An old temple in the city was dedicated to an Elder Evil. Tapping into the Black Blood of the Earth they managed to master a process of finishing Shadow Pearls - weapons of mass insanity and chaos. The Father suggested that if they wished to disrupt the process the should first destroy the artifact Tlalocs Tear which will cause the Kopru to panic as they rush to remove to finish off their ancient enemies the Aboleth leaving the temple relatively undefended.

The PCs continued on and finally found the city of Golismorga. The city of organic horrors filled an enormous cavern and greeted the PCs with its alien strangeness. A scouting mission found the location of Tlaloc's Tear and that it was guarded by an alien entity known as a Brain Collector.
The PCs opened with a Feeblemind spell which was actually successful.  This made the fight much easier even with the local environment so hostile to mortal life. An adamantine dagger eventually destroyed the artifact - its presence in such an evil alien environment for a millennia had weakened the artifact to a point where it could be destroyed.

As Tlaloc's Tear crumbled to dust, the earth began to rumble as the vast caverns under the city began to fill with water. The PCs rushed to the the temple and were assaulted by the Kopru Behemoths. One managed to Dominate Isis. Only a quick Hold Person by Trevain prevented Isis from killing most of the party until the controlling Kopru could be slain.

The PCs advanced on the temple and found a way in. They first battled a Kopru Cleric of Demogorgon before battling a Bilewretch of Holashner, a greater minion of an Elder Evil. With these dead, the production line for Shadow Pearls was disrupted. The PCs grabbed what treasure they could and teleported out.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Life for West End Games

Back in the late '80s and early '90s, West End Games (WEG) was a major player in the tabletop rpg industry. Best known for the classic Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, WEG also held licenses at various times for Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Xena: Warrior Princess and Men in Black. It also developed classic games such as Paranoia and TORG. Unfortunately, even the Star Wars license couldn't sustain the company, which declared bankruptcy in 1998. In 2003, WEG, now stripped of all its licenses, was purchased by Eric Gibson, who hoped to develop its game mechanic, which became known as the d6 System. Gibson's company published the core rules as three books, d6 Space, d6 Fantasy and d6 Adventure as well as announcing the release of Bill Coffin's Septimus campaign world. However, it could not repeat WEG's past success. In 2008, Gibson dissolved the company, released the d6 system and Septimus as OGL and sold off its remaining IPs. Gibson retained nothing except rights to the name. Apparently, the name still has some value, however, because Stewart Wieck, one of the original designers of Vampire: The Masquerade and other White Wolf titles has just announced that he has acquired the rights to WEG. The first plan for WEG is to make all the d6 products and Septimus, which are currently available for free download, available for print-on-demand. Wieck has also set up a Kickstarter to bring back Web and Starship, an '80s era boardgame published by WEG.

I once had a great deal of fondness for WEG and still have a sizeable collection of original SW:TRG books as well as all the free d6 content. Although I've long since moved on to other games, that nostalgia will probably entice me to keep an eye on new WEG developments.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ultimate Intrigue - Early thoughts

First and foremost, as the title suggests, this book is highly focused towards an intrigue style adventure/campaign. It works best in at low levels or in a low magic environment. If you are like me and looking for cool things to inject into a standard campaign you will be somewhat disappointed. This book is full of options but I found most of them to be very niche.

The Vigilante is pretty cool but I can't see myself playing one which is a bit of a shame. This could be one of those classes, like the Oracle, that I grow to appreciate over time but currently I don't see enough to excite me. The Avenger (Fighter) type Vigilante has great social options, and can do pretty good damage but I'm not sure they have enough defensive options. Overall I think the Avenger is decent and much more useful compared to the Stalker.

The Stalker (Rogue) seems to be built around the element of surprise. The problem with Pathfinder is that it tends not to support "one hit kill" style that the stalker seems to be built around. The stalker is devastating on the first round but then find its usefulness drop off severely.  I suppose you could pull the video game stunt of running away for 2 minutes until everything resets but no GM I know would allow you to get away with something so gamey.

Most of the new feats are geared towards an intrigue game although there are a few notable exceptions. Starry Grace brings me one step closer to finally be able to run a PC built around effectively using Star Knives.

Most of the Archetypes are niche as well. Many of the trades are for Intrigue options which won't be so useful in a standard game so form that point of view most of the archetypes are downgrades. Once I get the module for HeroLab I'll do more than throw some numbers together on paper but from a quick and dirty standpoint, many were very lackluster from a combat standpoint.

Overall the book contains lots of creative ideas and options but most are focused on an Intrigue style game which could be a lot of fun but we tend to play a more direct style.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Savage Tides 10 - Tides of Dread

With 30 days until the Crimson Fleet arrives, the PCs began to improve the colony itself. The harbor was booby trapped and defensive structures were built. The Wall was strengthened and the militia expanded and better trained. Scouts maintained a vigilant watch to ensure the colony would have sufficient warning before the Fleets arrival.

The PCs expected the Pirates to attempt a direct assault on the harbor and so had the Jade Ravens guarding the rear and side gates.

The Crimson Fleet arrived almost exactly on schedule . Everyone had time to take their positions before the battle began. Bytor and McDougal assumed command of a Trebuchet on each side of the Harbor opening. As the Fleet approached, one of the 6 ships split off and began to sail to the south around the island as the other five continued forward and began to exchange siege weapon fire with the colony.

The outer two Trebuchets were taken out by Fireballs originating from one of the pirate ships. Bytor abandoned his position to join with his team mates on the beach but McDougal opted to stay. As the Pirates began disembarking into longboats for the assault, McDougal prepared his spell that would catch many of them in a whirlpool. The tactic succeeded and many of the pirates caught in the whirl pool drowned while the rest were trapped outside of the harbor entrance.

More siege fire was exchanged but before long the ammunition was expended and a standoff resulted. Four Flesh golems rose out of the surf and began dismantling the beach defenses. Meanwhile, McDougal sneaked aboard the pirate ship containing the Fireball caster. He was quickly confronted by 5 human looking pirates but began to question things when they attacked him with slam attacks and bites. The "human" pirate wizard targeted him with more fire spells and McDougal was forced to withdraw. Realizing that the whirlpool was not going away anytime soon, the main pirate landing group rowed off to another landing point.

As he arrived on the beach he assisted the rest of the party in taking out the golem trash leaving the harbor once again secure.

A signal was sent from the side gate and the PCs rushed over to find the Jade Raven locked in combat with 40+ pirates.  Between the two groups of heroes the pirates didn't last long however more foes entered the battle. Four Vrocks flew over head and began to dance. Two rounds passed with the PCs feeling rather impotent having no effective ranged attack modes (Trevain the Wizard was MIA), fortunately the Jade Raven proved they are not completely useless and downed one of the Vrocks. Furious that their dance was interrupted they charged the two groups of PCs. Much Carnage was unleashed but eventually the heroes stood triumphant.

Another winged humanoid flew over the village and landed near the Mayornenshi and Vanderboren manors. The heroes were at first hesitant to investigate knowing that the main body of pirates had yet to arrive but after hearing screams, decided to help.

The Vanderboren manor's door had been ripped from its hinges and one of the servants lay unconscious in the door way. Moving inside quickly they found Lavinia squared off with some demonic creature. The PCs quickly realized that this thing was once Lavinia's brother Vanthus.

Vanthus tried to compel the PCs to leave but they managed to throw off the Suggestion and the battle began. Vanthus was pretty nasty but against 4 PCs and Lady Lavinia he didn't have a chance. Just before his death he pulled a fist sized Black Pearl from his pocket, smeared his blood on it and then wished the PCs to Hell as he dropped the floor.

All of the PCs dove for it and all missed it save for Isis who had to spend a Hero Point to reroll his reflex save to catch it. Vanthus tried to Sunder the Pearl but Isis was able to protect it. McDougal stabbed Vanthus and finished him off.

At this point the remaining pirates called for a retreat and in their haste left two of the ships behind including the ship Vanthus was captaining, the Brine Harlot.

The colony of Farhsore survived relatively intact. Only a few building were damaged by siege weapons and only a dozen or so colonists lost their lives - mainly Trebuchet crews.

With the colony defended from the pirates, Farshore's future must now be decided.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Savage Tide 9 - Tides of Dread

I've been distracted so this post is a bit late but here goes:

The PCs arrived at long last in Farshore only to find it aflame. The natives dropped everyone off on the beach and then paddled away quickly not wanting to get involved. The description of the scene laid out several encounters that largely involved pirates running amuck killing colonists and burning buildings. Isis first rescued Tilde Swenten from a burning building. Next, the colony's alchemist, Hervik Aldwattle was laying on the beach bleeding out so Bytor healed him up.

A melee broke out at the burning church between several pirates and the PCs but the pirates went down pretty easily. The pirate leader was standing by the well killing anyone who came near and preventing the colonists from forming a bucket brigade to extinguish the fires. He hit pretty hard but Slipknot Pete died just like the other pirates and the PCs got the flames extinguished.

As the smoke cleared, Lavinia, the Jade Ravens and Lord Manthalay Mayornenshi. Lord Manthaly is Avner's uncle and wasn't initially happy to see him. Manthalay provided leadership to the colony in the Vanderboren's absence and is less than happy at Lavinia's attempts to take back control. The Jade raven's were unhappy with the way Lavinia introduced the PCs to the colony as "saviours of the colony" since they had battled the pirates as well.

One of the pirates had been captured alive and after being charmed was interrogated. He explained that the pirates were third party contractors for the Crimson fleet and mostly they collected exotic animals and shipped them back to civilization for sale. They had been told to scout the colony for a coming attack by the Crimson Fleet but seeing it so poorly defended, Pete got greedy and attacked.

Lefty the pirate warned everyone not to be around when the pirates arrived which should be in about 60 days. After some discussions the decision was made to try and defend the colony. A long list of potential improvements was drawn up and the PCs decided that the first order of business was to recover their ship - the Sea Wyvern. Lavinia made the Blue Nixie and the colony's carpenter available but first they would need more pitch. This tarry substance was normally acquired from the natives but lately it had been unavailable.  The PCs decided to visit the natives to aquire more tar and ask for their assistance in the coming battle as well.

The smaller villages refused to help unless the village of Tanaroa assisted as well. Tanaroa was the largest of the native settlements and was located at the great wall. The prestige of guarding the wall gave the village leadership in the loose native confederacy.

Upon arriving in Tanaroa, the PCs found a religious ceremony underway. The native were chanting around a burning effigy of a bat-like creature. The effigy came to life, threatened the village if the stolen idol was not returned. To back-up its threat, a far off volcano began to erupt. The PCs immediately began to wonder if the strange idol they found on their journey to the Isle of Dread might be the stolen idol in question. The natives confirmed their suspicion and after appeasing the natives suspicions that the PCs were the thieves, the villagers offered to provide guides to the Temple of Zotzilaha.

Upon entering the Temple, the Avatar of Zotzilaha immediately attacked them. Iowa the Bard displayed the idol to the Avatar and it ceased to attack them. The avatar opened a secret chamber and commanded the PCs to place the idol within. For returning the stolen idol, it offered each PC a treasure from the room. The avatar spotted a rolled up leather strip and commanded the PCs to take the strip and its contents with them as it was not a sanctified offering to Zotzilaha. Wrapped in the strip was a pointy tooth - a fang. Trevain suspected that the magic item was in fact an artifact. They took it with them and left.

With the villagers appeased, the PCs proceeded to the tar pits. The villagers warned them that a large dinosaur had taken up residence in the area and was preventing anyone or anything from collecting tar. At the Pits they found a large Tyrannosaurus Rex  chasing a bunch of small creatures that looked like a cross between Rocket Racoon and the lemurs from Madagascar - the Phanaton.

Trevain charmed the enormous beast thinking it would be perfect to use to defend the colony from pirates. The problem was they had no way to control it. No one had any skill at handling animals and no one had any magic for the job. After spending a great deal of time trying to come up with a solution they ended up killing it.

The Phanaton were thrilled that the tar pits were once again clear of large threats and offered to take the PC back to their village for a feast. The PCs knowing a plot hook when they hear one accepted and journeyed with the small creatures. Along the way to their Ewok tree house, they were ambushed by strange creatures called Skinwalkers that had not been seen in this part of the island in many years. The remaining Phanaton introduced the PCs to their tribe and told the PCs a tale of the Rakastas, the sister race of the Skinwalkers.
The Rakastas were a peaceful race of jaguarfolk and battled their corrupted brethren. The Skinwalkers continued to grow in power and eventually drove the Rakastas to extinction. The Phanaton were pretty sure that the Rakastas had created a weapon depot to battle their evil cousins but never had the chance to use it. Perhaps the PCs would be interested in it.

The PCs found the temple and it was largely unguarded. Only a Coatl remained, it she only long enough to tell the tale of the Rakastas and encouraged the PCs to take the treasures of the now vanquished Rakastas and use them to fight evil.

The PCs took the choicest weapons for themselves and then arranged with the colony for the rest to be transported back as well as confirmed that there was now enough pitch available to repair their ship.

The Blue Nixie set for towards the wreck of the Sea Wyvern. She carefully maneuvered through the reefs until she pulled up close to the Sea Wyvern, still trapped on the reef. A battle with an aquatic creature known as a Kopru broke out but the PCs were able to slay it and claim its treasure - a Headband of Wisdom +4, that it was creating.

A week of hard work and the Sea Wyvern was seaworthy again. The two ships set sail and returned to Farshore with 4 weeks remaining until the pirates are due to arrive.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ranking the Paizo Pahtfinder Adventure Paths (update 2016)

Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Second Darkness, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, Serpent's Skull, Carrion Crown, Jade Regent, Skull and Shackles, Shattered Star, Reign of Winter, Wrath of the Righteous, Mummy's Mask, Iron Gods, Giant Slayer, Hell's Rebels

I received a request to update my ranking of my favorite Paizo Adventure Paths and since I have lots of time on my hands let's do this. Criteria is the same as last time: fun to play,  role playing, interesting combat encounters, cool themes, and great story. This is just my opinion and I'll admit to my biases: a dislike of long dungeons, and that high level pathfinder (14+) does not play well. So with that out of the way, here we go.

1. Hell's Rebels. It is like someone gave Paizo a list of my likes and dislikes and they ended up with a near perfect adventure path. My last post went over why I like it so much so I won't repeat it here.

2. Curse of the Crimson Throne. Still awesome but parts 4 and 5 just don't fit in well with the rest. I still think this would best if it were expanded into a full multi-year expanding campaign. We would just blaze through this one too fast to give it proper justice.

3. Kingmaker. The adventure path where you can pretty much do what you want. This one was a big favorite in my group and everyone had tons of fun with it. The glue between the various parts is weak but in this situation it is not a deal killer. It falls a bit into Star Trekiness later on when you wonder why the ship captain and bridge crew, err I mean King and his senior advisors, are wandering around caves killing trolls when they should be running the kingdom and leaving this stuff to minions.

4. Rise of the Runelords (Anniversary Edition). This one is great because they got to go back and fix the minor flaws from the first time around. This one has some great role-play elements, fun combats and great back story that is slowly unveiled over the first few parts. In the last third, things start to go down hill. The dungeon in part 5 is both rather pointless and is so long. Part 6 isn't too bad but we usually have ADD by this point in the campaign and the way its written is very long and drawn out. We played a shorted version of it.

5. Wrath of the Righteous. We'll ignore the mythic rules for a moment and look at the AP itself. It has a very interesting cast of NPCs (too many actually), a great plot, lots of epic action and tons of cool encounters. If your players don't try and break the game with Mythic rules it might be workable but most groups will turn into vortexes of mythic destruction and all encounters will be won or lost in the first 2 or 3 rounds. Mythic is very swingy. I do love those re-rolls though. I found Part 6 to be weak but that's pretty common but otherwise if you can work around the Mythic rules problem this is a great AP.

6. Iron Gods. I've never had a problem with Robots in my D&D since it has been an element of the  since Blackmoor but many others do. I really like the first two and the last 2 parts of this AP but I found the middle two a bit weak. I think this would be a great AP for all those weird PCs builds in your stable. I love the chainsaw greatswords, the laser blasters, the nanobot healing kits. Sign me up!

7. Reign of Winter. This AP wasn't really what I was expecting and it won me over as I read through it. This is one of the rare APs that seemed to get stronger as it went along instead of the other way around. Part 5 is down right weird and yet is rather appealing. Who hasn't wondered how high level PCs would do against WW1 troops and tanks? The thing to keep in mind is that this AP is largely about travel. You will go to weird new places and kill lots of strange monsters. In a good way. The first part of this AP is deadly if you play with environmental rules.

8. Giant Slayers. This one benefited from low expectations on my part. This AP includes some unique encounter locations, great role-playing opportunities and would work surprisingly well with a stealth oriented group. I particularly like the transition from part 5 to part 6. Enchanter type PCs are no doubt rubbing their hands together in glee at the though of a giant oriented AP but don't worry, Paizo doesn't let their toys work on the bosses.

9. Shattered Star. I am not a fan a huge dungeons but if you are, I'm sure you would rate this one higher. Sure the dungeons have very different themes, contain some interesting role playing options but over all it just didn't appeal to me. There is usually at least one part in each AP that is "WOW" and this one really didn't have one. It was just consistently good.

10. Mummy's Mask. I had high hopes for this one and the first couple parts work really well. However the whole tomb crawling theme works best at low to mid levels. I wanted this one to feel like Indiana Jones or the Mummy and it does a decent job early on but not so much later.  The railroad on this one feels stronger than most and I can easily see a group running off the rails. The one might be a good candidate for ending it early.

11. Carrion Crown. Speaking of "Ending it early"... This one grew on me the more times I read it. The horror themes were fun and I thought the first two parts were quite unique and entertaining (and difficult). Part three was a bit like "Clue" before ending as a zombie movie. I cut this campaign off here because I didn't really care for the second half. Part 4 tries very hard to be Lovecraftian. Plot wise Part 5 makes no sense, and although Part 6 had one super awesome encounter (OK maybe 2) most of the book was rather blah and the BBEG was a pushover.

12.  Skull and Shackles. I really wanted to love this one but after Part 1 I found it just fell flat. A DM who loved the material and really put some life into this AP could probably make it great but it definitely needs some love as most of it just seemed rather blah and generic.

13. Legacy of Fire. Pugwumpies. That word still sends shivers down my spine. May I never encounter them again. This one had a great theme, lots of fun in the first two parts but kind of lost its way in the middle. Part three was a blatant railroad and then both Parts 4 and 5 involve being trapped in either a pocket dimension or another plane of existence. A bit repetitive and by the time we finished part 5 we were still walking around in same gear we had in part 3.

14. Jade Regent. Don't get me wrong I liked the Asian themes but this AP just didn't work for me. Chapters written by James Jacobs are generally great and Part 1s are generally great but I just didn't care for the first part of Jade Regent. The caravan rules are broken. I didn't love the NPCs (even though some are returning from earlier APs), and I didn't love the dungeon. Part 2 didn't really work for me either. I had to read it three times to understand the flow of events. I liked the traveling in Part 3. Its rare that the environment plays such a central role in the game. Part 4 started out strong but I didn't like the dungeon that it led to. I heard someone replaced it with the Jade Ruby Tournament which sounds like fun. I love the idea behind Part 5. Rally different factions into rebellion against the Jade Regent but I was not thrilled with its execution. It could easily be expanded and made more awesome.

15. Council of Thieves. They tried to fix the problems of Curse of the Crimson Throne and failed miserably. The first part was largely forgettable as all of the NPCs you meet are then ignored for the rest of the AP. The back story is handed out in bits of pieces but never really comes together. Even after you killed the BBEG you are wondering who the guy was. The best element of this AP was Part 2. It actually comes with a script and the PCs can act out the murder play. For a theatrically inclined group it would be amazing, but for a group of dice rollers not so much.

16. Second Darkness. This one isn't as bad as its reputation suggests. Parts 1 and 2 are actually really good. Part 3 is fun but the elves come across as very unlikable. Part 4 is unique and part 6 was fun with lots of tough boss fights. The big reason people love to hate this AP is part 5 which is a total disaster and needs a complete rewrite. One interesting fix for this AP is to drop parts 1 and 2 (which didn't really fit with the rest of the AP) and make the PCs Lantern Bearers.

17. Serpents Skull. Part One is one of the stronger adventures out there and darn near perfect (but very hard if played as written). Part 2 is fun if you play up the different faction rivalries. Part 3 is a big mess like Part 5 of Second Darkness. There were so many things they could have done with Saventh-Yi and what we got was WoW style quests to kill 60 Mobs which will pacify a sector of the city. Thanks. Part 4 was only OK except for the Gorilla King which I thought was a excellent encounter. Parts 5 and 6 mainly involved trips down into the Darklands to kill snakemen. Yawn. I still like the BBEG of this campaign but I'm worried that he'd get over whelmed by action economy. Needs minions.

And there you have it! It is largely the same list as last time. I made a few minor changes but aside from including the new APs it is pretty similar.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hell's Rebels (may contain some small spoilers)

Well Paizo has finally done it. Curse of the Crimson Throne has long been my favorite Adventure Path mainly on the strength of the first three (mainly the first two) adventures. It has all the components of what I think makes a great Adventure Path.

Let's go over those:
1. A simple but deep story. This one is hard to pull off. The players should get a sense of the story early on and it should stay consistent through the AP. It is nice if the BBEG or Organization is revealed fairly early so the PCs get a sense of who they are up against. Each part of the AP should be moving forward the PCs goals against their antagonist.

2. A solid cast of recurring NPCs. This is an area that I always struggle with. It is great if the DM can really bring the NPCs to life. The PCs should form relationships with them, liking some and not others but most importantly remembering who they are, using them as resources later on.

3. A big variety of encounter types. I'm not  a fan of long dungeons. If the dungeons or encounter location doesn't fit on a standard play mat it is probably too big. That's not to say I don't ever like exceptions but that is my rule. The occasional big dungeon is a nice change of pace but I prefer seeing only one or so per AP.

It is not a secret that Paizo staff read the message board and I'm sure they spend extra time carefully reading the threads about what AP are people's favorites and why. Kingmaker, Runelords and Crimson Throne are almost always the top choices. I can see elements of Runelords in other APs, but they have not really tried to do another Kingmaker style Adventure Path. With Crimson throne the major critique was that people didn't like the McGuffin hunt in parts 4 and 5 and would have prefered to stay in the city. Taking this to heart, with the release of the Pathfinder Role Playing Game they launched Council of Thieves Adventure Path at the same time. This AP takes part entirely within or nearby the City of Westcrown.

The problem is that Council of Thieves is a mess and largely fails miserably to capture the magic of CotCT. With CoT we made the mistake of playing the AP as it was being released. There were huge production delays and so our DM was left scrambling to fill in two months of content while we waited for the next book. Never again.

Even without the delays, CoT breaks lots of my rules. The story line is a mess. We never really understood why were were doing things and simply followed the obvious plot points to move on to the next location. The villain(s) are not at all obvious until the very end and even then we were hoping for some big reveal and didn't get it. The recurring NPCs get ignored after the first lackluster chapter and the only part that really stands out as cool and interesting is the Opera in Book 2.

With Hell's Rebel's, Paizo has taken a good look at their previous attempts to make the ultimate in Urban adventures and learned from their errors.

1. It is pretty obvious from even the players guide what this adventure path is all about. Barzillai Thrune is the new Mayor of Kintargo, and is a Tyrant who must be removed. Most of the things the PCs do in this book are dedicated towards the ultimate goal of freeing the city from Thrune's grasp. Even the side quests often progress the main plot or provide plot hooks for later adventures. The whole thing fits together nicely and feels like 6 pieces of a whole instead of a series of 6 loosely connected adventures.

2. NPCs are introduced slowly over the course of the AP and most do a pretty good job of being memorable. Later volumes give the DM ideas about how to incorporate early NPCs into later adventures.

3. Hell's Rebel's has some really memorable encounters. There lots of battles. These are as varied and interesting as any other AP in lots of different environments - underwater, in sewers, dwarven castles, plus lots of cityscapes. It is also the wide variety of non combat encounters that really stand out. There is a cool negotiation scene, a dinner party, a grande ball and encounters where stealth/deception are the best way to go.

Part 6 is especially notable. Too often part sixes are the weakest chapter of the AP. They are hard to write and balance around high level PCs that can just about anything. This part six limits what the PCs can do, but does so in a way that fits the storyline to such a degree that no one will care.  Part 6s should have an epic feel to them and this one pulls it off in spades.

I only have 2 beefs with this AP. The first is its over reliance on point systems. In every volume there is some sort of point system that needs to be tracked. Rebellion points, Notoriety points, Vote points, Concession points. Ugh. I understand why the different systems are there but they just all seem so gamey. The second is that the end of part four is such a climax to the plot that part five feels a bit slow as the tension starts to build again to the surprisingly awesome Part 6.

Overall this AP just blew me away. It has been a long time since I've seen an Adventure Path that I've loved so much. The last few years Paizo has been putting out APs that are decent but nothing really outstanding. I can understand why people would like them but none of them stood out for me. Hell's Rebels hits everything on my checklist and I hope to play it or DM it at some point.