If you're like me, you came to know Paizo via Dungeon and Dragon and while I LOVE Pathfinder and the books they put out, the whole format in fact, I also think that Kobold Quarterly and its success proves that there's a market for magazine like Dragon. Well, now, Rite Publishing steps up to provide us with a magazine containing adventures in the vein of the Dungeon magazine, so let's take a look!
Adventure Quarterly #1
This new magazine is 76, one page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving a whopping 70 pages of content, so what exactly is this new magazine?
Well, first of all, it is a collection of 3 adventures by ADAM DAIGLE, TIM CONNORS and TIM HITCHCOCK. Yep. If those names don't ring any bells, I probably can't help you - they are stellar authors. Secondly, we get short supplemental articles. Sound familiar? The closest analogy I could think of is the following: If KQ is the spiritual successor of Dragon magazine, Adventure Quarterly could be considered the heir to Dungeon magazine and the very first module by Adam Daigle could have been released in that form in Dungeon, but before I go into that, be aware that from here on
SPOILERS reign. Potential players read on at their own risk and to the detriment of their fun! I'll clearly denote the end of the SPOILERS before the conclusion.
Still here? All right! Adam Daigle's "Too many Cooks" is a delightfully quirky short scenario for low-level characters that can easily be placed in just about any larger town/city/metropolis. In this scenario, a megalomaniacal cook has stroke a deal with some mites to provide psychotropic berries. In order to get rid of his competition, he essentially is abducting and drugging them. Whether you intersperse the module throughout another adventure or run it straight, the PCs investigation will slowly piece together what's going on and potentially be drugged themselves, at least temporarily. Once they have braved tengu-raiders, massive rat infestations and done their research, they're going to be in for a truly awesome showdown in a large kitchen, including a table of improvised weapons, complex potential hazards and the possibility to get hook-impaled and then dropped into a meat-grinder! For extra fun, add Adamant's "Cooking with lass" and you're in for an unconventional scenario with a fun tweak and some potential for memorable and hilarious scenes - develop the psychotropic hallucinations for extra fun. It should also be noted that the module comes with one page containing dundjinni-created maps of all the locations in the module with supreme details and in full color.
The second adventure is by Tim Connors and called the "Book of Promises" and has a basic premise that is most interesting - souls are at stake. A cabal of devil-worshipping never-do-wells has a deal with the great A to collect souls and all their infernal contracts are stored in the "Book of Promises", which is stored in a vault - the PC's task will be to reclaim the book and prevent thus the souls from going to hell. Add the recent torrential deluge that has resulted in massive floods in the city and everything just got complicated. even worse, the vault in which the book is stored is protected by an extremely potent magical defense that prohibits access - unless the supplicant has a special kind of permission. Which the PCs might obtain from their quest-giver in a midnight game of poker/cards that can be a frame or an actual game. Unfortunately for the PCs, they are not the only party sent to retrieve something from the vault - apart from the devil-worshipping, shapeshifting members of the forked legion, they'll have to contend (or even ally) with a duo of araneas and a coven of witches, which, in a nice twist, might offer the means to determine how to destroy the infamous book. The delve into the vault turns out to be a rather interesting one that takes the water and location into account and culminates in a final, epic free-for-all brawl between the different factions the PCs encounter during their heist. And then there's an option for a truly heroic sacrifice to end the threat of the artifact once and for all...
The final new adventure by Tim Hitchcock, at least to me, takes the awesome-cake. Set after a war that has just ended, the PCs are presumed to be the disillusioned survivors of grand war that now has them return to a backwater swampy area under the command of an immortal godking Xilomac VIII - megalomaniacal and ancient, the godking's spire rests on muddy ground, ensuring that each year numerous of his subjects are worked to death to prevent his own personal take on the tower of babel-trope falling to ruin. It is after a hunt for an insurgent that the PCs arrive in the eponymous festerbog, where, they meet a long-lost brother of one of the PCs, who has been cornered by the elite-assassins of the god-king. With his dying breath or thankful for his life, the insurgent imparts crucial information: The constant rebuilding of the spire has left a cistern sunken and unused, but still - a valid way into the otherwise impenetrable fortress of the tyrant. With the keys now in their hand, it is up to the PCs to brave the sludge and muck and defeat the strangely mishappen creatures below, the degenerate kin.
The revelation of where they come from, pronounced by the godking's now unbodied and forever cursed ancestors (which turn out to be floating brains and spines), sends the PCs on the right track - into the complex system and up to the top-most-levels of the mad king's ziggurat, where they will not only marvel at the beauty, but also find a more than deadly foe in the godking. The adventure ends not with his defeat, though: An artifact, the soul siphon, which has enabled him to live and created the despicable kin, must still be destroyed, lest it fall into other hands. In order to do so, though, the PCs will have to brave the deepest recesses of the ziggurat's system and finally find "A Thing called Us" - an advanced, extremely potent meld (those of you who read Hyperconscious know what I'm talking about), updated to PFRPG (and by the way - the thing on the cover) awaits the PCs. In order to destroy the artifact, the meld has to consume it and a PC must hold it. Wrestling free the brave one before he is absorbed should be quite a challenge, especially with the being spawning foul flesh salves. Worse yet, the thing starts to mutate once the PCs have fed it and the escape through the system before the rapidly growing beast dies in a terrible shockwave. This escape is not only expertly presented in cinematic quality, but also timed IRL, making not only the PCs, but also the players sweat. It should be noted that this adventure comes with 4 sample 12th-level characters with extensive backgrounds that are intertwined with certain aspects of the module. If you want to run your own PCs through it, some setting the stage and planning is required.
Oh, and what I've forgotten to mention: This adventure is wholly compatible with Psionics Unleashed and not only makes for a stellar example of Sword & Sorcery-style adventure design with a sense of bronze-age-antiquity, but also for one of the finest psionic adventures I have yet read. You can definitely see that Tim Hitchcock has been influenced by Nicolas Logue and his stellar adventure-writing - the imagery, sense of dread secrets best left undiscovered, a general feeling of decline and decay, nomenclature and the expertly-created psionic foes make for a truly compelling scenario, whether with the pregens or your own group. If you like psionics, this alone justifies the fair asking price. if you're on the fence on whether you and your players enjoy them, however, this is definitely an awesome example on how to use them in your game. Tim Hitchcock not only proves that he is a stellar author of dark scenarios, but also gets the rules. Two thumbs up!
The pdf closes with a write-up of the secret society from the second adventure as well as a contribution by Raging Swan mastermind Creighton Broadhurst: The random tribal name generator! In 3 easy steps and over 4 pages, we get descriptor and words that can add a sense of wonder to even the most basic humanoids you fight as well as identity and detail to your world. Great little toolkit!
Editing and formatting are very good, as I've come to expect from RiP. I only noticed 3 minor glitches over the whole issue. Layout adheres to RiP's 2-column full-color standard and the artworks are mostly stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a MASSIVE map-pack that contains high-res versions of the maps as well as tifs, pngs and collated versions of the maps with legends etc. to print out. Unfortunately numbers and secret door indicators are included in them, but still: The beautifully-detailed dundjinni-made full-color maps for each adventure are a massive plus in my book. I've said it in the beginning of this review and I'll say it again: If KQ is the successor to Dragon, then AQ is the successor to Dungeon. Especially for a first issue (remember the humble beginnings), this magazine is VERY impressive. With the quality authors and their excellent modules, there is simply no reason not to get this - each adventure in itself has at least one or more original, unique ideas going for it and Creighton's generator is a neat bonus indeed. Psionic fans HAVE to get this anyway, but even if you're a die-hard hater of them, the other two adventures still justify the low asking-price. And reading "Soul Siphon" might actually change your mind. Ok, that was a bad pun. Before I start to ramble on, I'll give you my final verdict: 5 Rudii + Endzeitgeist seal of approval. These adventures rock!
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,