Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pathfinder Module Review: Daughters of Fury

First of all, this review contains spoilers.  Secondly, I voted for Victoria Jascko in RPG Superstar last year, so I'm likely to be pre-disposed to voting for her stuff.  Daughters of Fury is my first review of a Module.  I've got some notes for doing some stuff from the Campaign Setting line as well.  Unfortunately, school this semester is keeping me from getting things up too regularly.  Fortunately, I generally do have time to make notes.  So, when I do have time to transition them from notes into final posts, I will have a lot of them!

Daughters of Fury is the most recent adventure published by Paizo as part of its Pathfinder Modules line.  It was written by Victoria Jaczko, the winner of last year's RPG Superstar.  In fact, Daughters of Fury is developed from her module pitch that won the contest for her.  Daughters of Fury is an adventure for 4 third to sixth level PCs.  The cover art is awesome, and gives a great visual that a GM can share with his players.  But, the PDF takes awhile to load--something that several others have commented about on the Paizo boards.

The module's backstory is engaging, but it's also very complex. Consequently, this module requires a very good GM to pull it off. Vegazi is also a hugely important NPC who may or may not get along with the PCs.  If she doesn't it could seriously derail the module. This derailment is not the "a few things need to be readjusted on the edges" but the "PCs have totally not bought into the plot hooks" variety.  The need for pure souls to change into Erinyes motif is cool (don't have BotD: Devils so unsure if this is canon or development but either way it's a neat gimmick. Would enjoy working that into the result of a knowledge check or as info from an NPC.

Chapter 1
Arwyll Stead is a well developed town. It doesn't quite reach the level of Belhaim from Dragon's Demand, but that's a high standard to hit. There's good development for the town here, but much of it is in the adventure itself. That's largely a function of the Module format but if I were running it I'd want to centralize the info to better bring the town to life. This could have been mitigated by trimming some of the magic items and bestiary entries at the end, but I'll discuss those later. Ultimately, this Module tried to straddle the difference between presenting a good adventure and showcasing the (very good) work from last year's RPG Superstar bestiary and magic item entries.  

Done right, the early attack on the town can be used to help introduce the PCs to the important NPCs in the story. The funeral scene can cement the PCs' ties to the town.  The choice on the Catacombs is amazing. PCs go nuts when NPCs are operating on false info. Normally that sort of thing backfires, but here the reasoning comes out later in the adventure. I think this is well handled. It's fine for the PCs to do the grumbling about the flawed information if there's later a payoff of seeing them say, "Oh! So that's why!"  Jaczko has done a real good job with this.

Chapter 2
This seems like filler. I'd want to streamline it. PCs may very well want to go scouting for the enemies on their own. Things can get very free form here. This part of the adventure could get blown apart fast. Fortunately, if the PCs do go off on their own, the module has given good random encounter tables.  All are from the first Bestiary, which also gets points. They are keyed to happen pretty frequently, as a GM I'd need to be very careful to keep the pacing on track here. Could devolve into a serious of battles rather than an overarching plot if not careful. Good background for the outlying farmers. It was also a good trick to include an NPC that can explain Vegazi.

If Ilka's camp isn't a flip mat already, it needs to be. This is a great place to have a fully backgrounded battle. If one were so inclined, you could make a two-sided flip mat that covers this battle and with the final battle (presented on the inside back cover) flip mat on the opposite side.

Back in town, there's space for some fun mystery solving. It's interesting, but I'm unsure just how it would affect the overall pacing. I'd be willing to give it a shot, but would work things to move back to larger plot pretty quickly if PCs were getting bored.

Chapter 3
Finally the PCs get to see why there were confused monsters in the catacombs earlier. Tunnel is fun old-school and could be transposed to just about any other adventure. Camp is cool and I like how vegazi's brothers have been worked in. If captured they could be very useful for story, especially if the party has lost Vegazi herself. Bax the final daughter makes for a fun fight, though I'm always leery of using archetypes on NPCs--GMs already have so much to keep track of.

At the summit things get hairy. First, love the devil bound template! I'm expecting to see more of this in Hell's Rebels. This should have been a clue for all of us. Bestiary 4 has so much stuff clearly for Iron Gods. What will we see from it in Giantslayer, I wonder? I also love a good double boss fight. Though here they are being fought sequentially, so GMs will need to foreshadow so the PCs know they've got to manage resources.

The sacrifice scene is also a little weird. They've gone a long way to making Vegazi a martyr, but I have trouble making a character so flat. Vegazi's just helped take out her tribe's leadership. Maybe she should move forward with taking over and reforming them. That could be a fun extension to the module.

Back matter

My thoughts on the town are above.

4 pages of new monsters. I'll be adding the chimney troll to some random encounter tables-especially in Kaer Maga, where I like them as foils to the troll augurs. I can see them being pests in Cavalcade where they knock out fires in various foundries there. There will also have to be some Immured in Oriat somehow related to the Brothers of the Seal.

It's not technically in the back matter, but my archery bard in my home game wants an angelfall bow. Almost enough to take Craft Magic Weapons & Armor feat. Amulet of Reverse Incantation is fun, but players don't get their hands on it until they have to fight someone wearing one. Bog boots could really help control a battlefield. It would have destroyed our characters in our game today if the creature we were fighting had them (of course it was a phase spider, so presumably the boots wouldn't have been much use to her).

Bonedancer Bodhran is required item for a necromancer defending his or her shop in Ankara Te. Of course, playing the drum is the apprentice's job. Charlatan's Symbol is great flavor magic item for a Razmiran priest. Death Masks to be found in the Godsmouth Ossuary. Goblet of Liquified Cognition is cool. I have a gang of minor spellcasters--this would be fun for them to use, though I'd want the item being given to NPCs in exchange for a reward rather than staying for their use at such low levels. Groundbreaker Cloak in Kaer Maga creates such cool visuals. I'd modify it to allow the wearers choice to leave difficult terrain or not. The images of someone burrowing up and down through the city's various levels is all kinds of awesome. Murktouch Cloak is also awesome. I like it on a villain (or my PFS character if it's ever made legal!) Nightbane quiver is also awesome underground.

Star Cinder is awesome, but maybe too awesome. That's a big benefit since most PCs won't lose any resistance that they don't have.

Final Call

Ultimately, I liked the adventure, but think it would take an inordinate amount of work to pull it off.  The back matter is a little bit long, which gets in the way of really being able to develop the town.  A better developed town--or some way to expand on the backstory--could take this to a 4 star module.

Final call: 2.5 stars