Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slumbering Tsar

Slumbering Tsar is a mega adventure put out by Frog God Games written by Greg A Vaughan. If that name looks familiar its because he writes an adventure for just about every Paizo Adventure Path.

I don't have the hard cover yet so this review is based on the 14 pdfs that have been released over the last couple years and have just been bundled together I assume to raise enough money to print all of the massive hardcovers (over 1000 pages). The adventure for 4-6 level 7 PCs should easily get the party to level 20. The adventure is divided into three main sections: The desolation around the city, the city itself and the temple.

The Desolation is the wasteland that surrounds the city of Tsar, the site of a massive battle between good and evil centuries ago. This part section is basically a large hex crawl as the party scours the area looking for clues at what lies in the city proper. There are lots of quests scattered around and the players can begin to glean hints at the adventure's backstory.

Tsar is a large very detailed city. Although encounters tend to be undead heavy there are still lots of other creatures to be encountered. The PCs scour the city searching for a way to access the final area. The encounters are both location and event based. There is even a mid sized dungeon. Most encounters are immediately hostile but not all. There are even a few spots where you can play one encounter against another.

The temple is the last and by far the most challenging section. In this area the PCs will unearth terrible secrets and deal with Epic level challenges. If you are unlucky enough you could even face Orcus (level 35 demon lord) himself. The temple is nothing short of a mega dungeon. The thing is huge and has over 400 encounter locations.

The writer has tried to give the adventure a 1st edition feel and in some ways I think he's succeeded. There is a large variation in encounter difficulties. There are a few spots where the the encounter is several levels higher then the PCs and their best best is to be really prepared or just run away and come back later. At the same time many encounters will be a cake walk. Most pages have some artwork on them. It is all black and white and the quality is pretty good. I don't recall seeing any that I thought were awful. On the same note I don't remember any being awesome either. While I don't think it would require huge amounts of prep work to play you do have to have a good feel the various areas, how certain NPCs interact with each other, and spend a bit of time thinking about the best tactics for the monsters. Especially at higher levels they are quite complex - most have templates and/or class levels. This is high level Pathfinder so there are not too many bad guys that just walk up and start swinging.

The book is going to be huge and was originally written for 3.5 so its not surprising that a few editing mistakes slipped through. The PDFs have some weird glitches in them but I'm hoping its just a problem with the pdf and will be cleaned up for the hardcover. I figure that it would take us about a year to play from beginning to end - much the same as Kingmaker although if it stretched into the 18 month range I would not be shocked. I worry that so much high level combat can be tedious. I can easily see it devolving into a game of rocket launcher tag. The bad guys are so tough if they are not defeated in a round or two, the PCs will die.Many of the bad guys hit like Mac trucks or have crazy high DCs on their special abilties.

The adventure's focus is combat and exploration. There are lots of very deadly traps and a party would do well to have a rogue (or another trapfinder) along. The adventure has lots of very challenging encounters and players will have to be very creative if they want to survive. Many of the monsters come from 3rd party books so chances the players have never seen them before. Knowledge skills will be very handy for identifying weaknesses. Some of the monsters are pretty awesome, gruesome but awesome. There are NPCs scattered through out the adventure that can be used as replacement PCs or henchmen. A couple are rather unconventional and would be interesting to play as written. Especially towards the end there are lots of powerful magic items kicking around as well as some pretty sweet artifacts. There is no time limit on this epic quest so magic item crafting would be an option.

This adventure ties directly to Rappan Athuk. After the forces of evil retreated from Tsar they fled to the Dungeon of Graves. It would be fun to take the party that cleared Tsar into Rappan Athuk and see if they could beat that pretty much impossible Mega Dungeon..

Overall I think Slumbering Tsar looks like a lot of fun and when my 1000 page brick finally shows up I'll be sure to show it off. My only concern is the length as I recall everyone getting rather bored by the end of Age of Worms.

If you want more details they may be found here


Obiri said...

It's really hard to edit posts now. I miss the edit button at the bottom.

Rognar said...

Log out, then log back in. You should see a window indicating all your blogs. Look for the Edit Posts link and then the Edit link for your post.

Obiri said...

That's how I did it. Just way less convenient than before.

Rognar said...

Slumbering Tsar seems like something you could play for awhile, do something else, then return to it with different characters later. Lots of replay value.