Product Review – Part 1

So I have been given a great opportunity. My FLGS, Petrie’s Family Games, has asked me to be a reviewer for their website. So when I post them on their site, I will also post them on here on Origins of a Dark God.

This week, I bought two new Pathfinder products, so without further ado:

Pathfinder Adventure Path: Reign of Winter 5 of 6: Rasputin Must Die!

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Disclaimer: I purchase this from Petrie’s (my FLGS) and am not being paid to review this product. Also, it is my goal to provide a spoiler free review (aside from what is spoiled on the back of the book).

So many months ago, I was looking through GTS and saw the ad for the Reign of Winter adventure path. I will be honest; I am not a big adventure path fan. I tend to write my own material from scratch. The one exception is the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition, which was too gorgeous to pass up. But looking at this path, I saw the title of the fifth part, Rasputin Must Die! This intrigued me, so a couple of minutes later I was reading the description of the adventure on Paizo.com, and a couple of minutes after that I was on the phone ordering the whole adventure path.

So here we are, six months later, and I finally have Rasputin Must Die in my hands. There are seven sections, so we will cover them all one by one.

Part One: The Adventure – Rasputin Must Die!

The PCs, hot on the trail of a missing Baba Yaga arrive in 1918 Siberia, and must assault a Russian Monastery to kill Rasputin. Yeah, that is right. World War 1 Russians are the bad guys! We have machine guns, tanks, and mustard gas vs. magic, bow and blade. Sounds one sided right? Wrong. Brandon Hodge has done a great job of game balance. And when you add in Russian magic, and the devices of Nikoli Tesla, well let’s just say this is not your typical fantasy adventure.

The start is fairly linear, find a way yet again to escape from the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga, whose configuration keeps changing! Then it is a straight shot to the monastery. I will say this. In sharp contrast to the 3rd adventure (Maiden, Mother, Crone) which was a HUGE dungeon crawl, Mr. Hodge does a fantastic job of laying out the final “dungeon” (the monastery and the military camp around it) in a very sandbox fashion. There are multiple way to approach it, advice for how to move people around, etc. It has the open feel of a sprawling war camp, while still providing delineated encounters and encounter areas like you would find in a typical dungeon.

The final fight with Rasputin looks brutal. I would recommend you become very familiar with his spells, or he will lose a lot of his potency.

Finally, Brandon Hodges goes out of his way to steep the whole adventure in the lore of Russia. We have Cossacks, the Romanov family, Baba Yaga lore, Tesla and much more. He stated he was trying to capture the feeling that this all could have happened in our history, and I feel he succeeded in that difficult task.

Part Two: NPC Gallery

This section is history and stats on two of the major villains of this adventure Rasputin and Polkovnik Lavrenti, the leader of the Headless Cossacks! Both histories are a good read, but I find myself wanting Lavrenti’s history to come more into play in the adventure. As written, we have a tragic past for a now irredeemably evil villain. I think I would want to play him much more tragic than that, and expound upon his history.

My only complaint with their stats, a common one through the Adventure Paths, is that only unique abilities are spelled out. You need to hit your books, apps or SRD sites to fully understand all that these guys can do. For example Lavrenti is a dullahan. This gives him some spiffy new abilities, but must be found in the Bestiary 2 stat block for generic dullahan’s. Paizo does give you the page reference, and I realize that this has to be a space consideration, but it does make it a little harder to just pick up and run these villains.

Part Three: Reign of Winter Treasures

This is the magical goodie section. All the new and unique items your PCs can find during the course of this adventure. They pair well with the Reign of Winter Item cards, almost like Paizo planned it that way. This is a fairly typical entry of new magic items. But the great twist is that due to the events of the adventure, there are magical items from WWI Russian. Magical grenades, gas masks, machine guns, and steel helmets all get an entry in this section. It is a fun read, but be cautioned! PCs will take these back to Golarion, who knows how that will turn out!

Part Four: Guns, Spirits, and Revolution

This section is a great overview of modern weapons and mystical Russia. It starts off with an explanation of the differences between Golarion firearms, and modern ones, and the heads right into the stats for guns, machine guns, grenades, and mortars! Oh and flamethrowers are in there too. This is a great resource if you want to introduce higher level firearms into your game, and gives you a great baseline for how more modern weapons would be stated out.

The second part talks about the rise of spiritualism in Russia in the early 1900’s and ties that into the game mechanically with a new mystery for the Oracle class, Occult. All in all this section a great read and very informative, and reaches far beyond the scope of this adventure.

Part Five: Szuriel

This section feels a little out of place. Don’t get me wrong, an in-depth look at the Horsemen of War is fantastic. She is one of my favorite Daemonic lords in Golarion. But just because there are some Daemons in this adventure, and they are in the middle of WWI, it just struck me as a tenuous tie-in thread at best.

But this section is fantastic! The history of Szuriel’s ascension to the Horsemen of War, a look at her priests and temples and some new spells and alternate summon lists for her priest, gives you the ability to introduce a lot more flavor into her cult if you are using it in a game. It just feels very out of place in this adventure path for me.

Part Six: Web of Secrets

This is fifth installment of the Pathfinder society short story that has been set in the lands of Irrisen, the kingdom that is inexorably tied to the events of this adventure path. I have enjoyed these short stories, but the serial nature of them means I will probably have to head back and reread all of them in order to get a good feel for the story.

It is hard to do a review of this sections sans spoilers, so I will just say, it continues the aura of mystery around the main characters and gives you a good feel of what your PCs should be experiencing in the land of Winter and Witches.

Part Seven: Bestiary

Like all adventure paths, it ends with the bestiary. It gives you some random encounter ideas and a table, and then moves on to the meat of this section. New monsters! And if you are like me, I love new monsters! Two stand out as the shining incarnates of this bizarre adventure: Animated Tanks, and Trench Mist. The first is what you think, if you think they are tanks piloted by the disembodied brains of Russian Tank commanders!! ‘Nuff Said!

The really interesting one for me is the Trench Mist. It is a magical mustard gas that raises dead soldiers as zombies. It takes one of the most terrifying weapons in history, and gives it a magical twist that keeps all of the fear and horror historically attributed to it.

Conclusion

Would I rush out and buy this adventure? Well I did. And while it is a great adventure, it is not a stand-alone adventure, and that is over half of the page count. So here are the reasons I think you should go out and get this adventure.

1) If you have the first four Reign of Winter adventures, don’t stop now. So far this is the best one!

2) If you want to add more modern weapons to a Pathfinder game, this book is too useful to pass up.

3) With a little work, you could tie this adventure into a normal game, stripping the Reign of Winter tie-ins, and throw your party for a loop.

Rasputin Must Die! Is $22.99 and available from your FLGS.

 

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