Once upon a time (haha!), I wrote rather uninformative one-sentence-reviews of products I liked.
Today, after a rather exhausting review of a sub-par adventure, I felt like something different.
I hopefully have gone a long way with regards to whether my reviews can be considered informative and thus, today, I'm finally going to revisit one of the best investigation adventures I've ever read for D&D/PFRPG - if there is an adventure worthy of your time converting it to PFRPG, this is it. And if you're still using 3.5 - go ahead. I almost guarantee you'll like it!
Without further ado, I present my review of Tim Hitchcock's
This adventure for levels 1-3 is 58 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages for the plots afoot to unfold, so let's check it out!
The first thing you'll notice is that the adventure is extensively bookmarked, layout is clear and printer-friendly b/w.
That's as far as I can go without going into details. This being an adventure review, SPOILERS will now continue to abound - potential players, please jump to the conclusion!
Still here? All righty, so let's check out what the PCs will be up against!
"A Pound of Flesh" is an investigation-heavy adventure that focuses on mystery and players acting smart and subsequently kicks off via several possible hooks, all centering on the PCs investigating disappearances in the dock ward. After some careful probing, their first lead (possibly provided by a half-orc pimp) is an old crone and her bugbear-lover, who are responsible for killing the missing persons.
This is where you'll realize that this adventure is both complex and cool - the NPCs have strategies to cope with investigators, secret light signals the PCs can analyze and even have a whole interrogation section. Have I mentioned that the PCs in this section might encounter a she-male warrior and a traumatized soldier. Oh, and there's this serpentine-affine guy and a noble in session with a dominatrix. Seedy, iconic locations abound and the lead sends the PCs to a seedy bar and the saltshacks, a dock of halfling houseboats. It should be noted that both the seedy bordello and the shacks and even a fish-processing boat get their detailed maps, which really helps envisioning the areas. The halfling-accomplice quickly rolls over and the PCs are led to a mortuary (again, with its own map) and which could see the PCs trying to escape with clues from the burning building. Moreover, if the players screw up, there are always more ways to get them back on track.
After the blaze, the PCs reach a supposedly haunted shipyard (again with a detailed map) and enter the dungeon/infiltration-section of the adventure. Via the sewers, the PCs can infiltrate a cult of cannibalistic, depraved hunger-cultists and infiltrate they should - the defenses of the cult are superb and smart, showcasing that NPCs don't have to be too mechanically strong when they fight smart. The cultist-temple and the grimlock-servants are supremely creepy, featuring e.g. harnesses with animated zombie-arms. How cool is that? Oh, if the PCs screw up royally, they can fight a cthulhoid, extremely deadly entity. And no, that's NOT the climax. The climax of the adventure actually starts with the PCs climbing from the cultist's base to participate in the masque-ball of the main antagonist, mingling with the guests while trying to root out cultists, not get assassinated by them and collect the final clues and confront the villain. Who actually uses INTELLIGENT tactics and is not just another stat-block. Suffice to say, both the cultist hide-out and the mansion feature their own detailed maps and the masquerade is among the coolest things I've seen in any low-level adventure.
On the rules-side, we get 2 new monsters, a new ritualistic spell, the cannibalism domain and 2 new items.
Layout adheres to the two-column standard, the b/w-artworks are nice and formatting is, as far as I could glean, flawless. Editing is not, unfortunately: There are some minor glitches, that while not impeding the overall quality of the adventure, is the only thing that will sometimes rip you out of the brilliant writing. If you haven't gathered: That's my only point of criticism with regards to this adventure. You get an awesome piece of adventure writing, perhaps one of the best adventures ever released for 3.5, and a LOT of adventure. When PFRPG came along, this one was top-priority on my convert-list and both I and my players had a HUGE blast running this smart, well-crafted investigation chock-full with cool characters and disturbing details that are sure to be remembered for years to come. There simply aren't that many adventures out there that deserve the predicate "superb" and this is one of them - the enemies aren't too strong, but fight smart, the scenes are just plain awesome and the infiltration of the cultist hide-out rocks.
This adventure gets the Endzeitgeist seal of approval and, for me, nit-picky as I usually am with regards to typos etc., a full 5 Rudii-rating. If you're concerned about ~10 glitches over 58 pages of awesome adventure, detract half a Rudii. If you haven't played it yet, give it a try. It's pleasantly different from almost any 1st-level adventure out there in both details, structure and genre. Smart players and ROLEplayers deserve more such adventures.
All right, that's it for today, next time I'll have some nice new toys for your (N)PCs or perhaps some free stuff!
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,