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Adventure Path Pathfinder Review Roleplaying

PF AP02 Curse of the Crimson Throne

Pathfinder – Adventure Path

#2 – Curse of the Crimson Throne

Running the Campaign

  • Campaign Rules:  Published Books, including Mythic playtest (Paizo, converted from 3.5 on the fly)
  • Timeframe: 2nd October 2012 to 24th June 2014
  • Total Sessions: 34
  • Gaming Group: Tuesday Night (fortnightly)
  • Campaign: Season 2 – Curse of the Crimson Throne
  • Experience: As obtained from storyline milestones
  • Special Campaign Rules: Harrow mechanic
  • Note: conversion of 3.5 to Pathfinder for play, session notes in OneNote, tabletop environment in D20Pro.

Introduction

The king is dead! In the Varisian port city of Korvosa, the death of a monarch leads to chaos, and only the PCs can hope to save the city from its own darkest tendencies. As the rule of the young queen grows more and more draconian, it’s up to a band of bold adventurers to stop the spread of tyranny before all of Korvosa is crushed beneath her iron fist.

In the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, the heroes delve into the depth of urban adventure in order to stop riots, combat a plague, root out organized crime, and rescue political prisoners before escaping to the harsh badlands of the Storval Plateau, where only the friendship of the barbaric Shoanti and a weapon drawn from the heart of a gothic castle can give them the strength to return and depose the evil queen once and for all.

The Harrow Mechanic

The harrow mechanic is based around a deck of cards (that you can buy) and it provides a form of prophecy for the characters (and a mechanical advantage related to the prophecy), in certain parts of the story the characters also find a stray card that provides them with another bonus.

The cards also have very nice artwork and each card has special meaning. and for each of the suits there is a chard representing each of the nine alignments.

The Liar (chaotic evil, Charisma) is love at its most treacherous. This is not the love that moves mountains, this is the love that rips the heart in two and causes lovers to leap to their deaths. This lamia can mean obsession, unrequited passion, or doomed love. Misaligned, the card can indicate a new relationship beginning, although disguised as something much less beautiful.

The Harrow Suits

Players Guide (also free PDF)

Useful info for the players to get a copy of, though its stats are D&D 3.5. Contains:

  • Map of Korvosa (starting town)
  • Map of Varisia (starting country)
  • Korvosa – Overview of the city
  • Adventurers – Overview of Races and Classes
  • Equipment – New items specific to the setting
  • Traits – Campaign specific bonuses tied to the storyline in the first book as a hook to get players to have a united background.

Guide to Korvosa

This is a must have for any games master telling you about the city in detail as this is where a majority of the campaign will be based. This is a good gm guide and if you are running the setting it is a must need resource. A good background on the people and locations of the city, when most of the story is based there is very important.

Contents:

  • Introduction – Over view and regional map
  • Places – Important Locations
  • People – Important People
  • History – Description of the city’s history after founding
  • Secrets – About the places and people in Korvosa
  • Appendix – Notable people, random encounters and a pull out map

Book 7 – Edge of Anarchy

(9 Sessions)

The death of a king leads to chaos in the port city of Korvosa, and only the heroes can track down the assassin and stop the city from devouring itself in its leader’s wake. Also includes rules for the divinations of the mysterious Harrow Deck, an overview of Varisian culture, and Eando Kline’s encounter with the dangerous Shoanti custom known as the Burn Run.

This book expects the characters to gain enough experience to go from 1st level.

An introduction to Korvosa and helping the characters become people of importance in the coming events.

My first issue with this book is the names. The bane of my GM’ing experience. Long and complicated, and while nice to have a setting where the names are not based on English, the Spanish style kept tripping me up, and while I find cursive pretty, it is not as easy to read. I kept having trouble telling which of the NPC’s was which by the names, requiring referencing them to know who they are.

On an interesting note, there was an amazing encounter with a shark, rules on unconsciousness and drowning. The encounter approaching the character campaign trait big bad at the start of the book is where it is placed, and the artwork was very fitting.

The adventure then starts its decent into madness of the city going to hell, there are various encounters that can either be taken in a light hearted manner or a decent into horror. This has become something I have noticed with the adventure paths is some of them if pushed can be very disturbing. And for some games that is okay, but I prefer the lighter approach and using the disturbing as justification for the hero’s action in making the setting a better place.

I did grant the characters holdings in the city as part of their reward for helping out, and to give them some stake in the city to see to its well being.

Book Contains:

  • 7 part Adventure
  • Harrow – how to use the harrow cards in the game
  • People of the Road – details of the Varisian humans.
  • Pathfinder’s Journal – The Burn Run
  • Bestiary
  • Pregen Characters at level 1: Ezren (male human wizard), Seelah (female human paladin), Harsk (male dwarf ranger) and Lem (male halfling bard)

Book 8 – Seven Days to the Grave

(9 Sessions)

Plague comes to Korvosa! As bodies fill the streets, it’s up to the heroes to rally the city guards, save who they can, and unravel the origin of the mysterious sickness before the city becomes a charnel house. Also includes rules on diseases in fantasy settings; the commandments of Abadar, god of cities; and Eando Kline’s gladiatorial adventures in the orc-held city of Urglin.

This book expects the character to gain enough experience go from 4th level.

So the interesting themes in this book is plague, loss and death. Being hero’s of the city put the group into a position to try and save the population or at least contain the epidemic as much as possible.

This sets the characters up against the Red Mantis assassins and leads them to confront the cause of the disease. This does have some points where you can use the contacts from the previous book to tug at the emotions, and also further the political appointments of the characters in the city.

My players worked to help find the cause of the plague, make moral choices on behalf of the city, such as when to cut off plague infested regions from the rest of the city. This caused them to try and advance their businesses and look after the good of the people at the expense of the story.

Book Contains:

  • 5 part Adventure
  • Plague and Pestilence – The diseases of the setting and how to deal with them
  • Abadar – the god known as the Master of the First Vault, or the banker dude as referred to by one of my players
  • Pathfinder’s Journal – The Bloodworks Incident
  • Bestiary – Cool new monsters including Nosferatu, Holy constructs, new undead and deamons
  • Pregen characters now up to level 4

Book 9 – Escape from Old Korvosa

(4 Sessions)

With the government paralyzed, the criminals of Old Korvosa have risen up to fill the void, brutally carving out fiefdoms of blood and greed. Yet somewhere in their midst hides the man who holds the key to the city’s strange afflictions, if only the heroes can convince him to come forward. Also includes an overview of the notorious Red Mantis assassins and the shape-changing rakshasas, as well as a journey down a dragon’s gullet in the Pathfinder’s Journal.

This book expects the character to go from 8th level.

While the title might suggest this is all about an escape, its more about where the story ends, than the theme of the module.

The story opens with the assassination attempt on the queen and her using powers unknown to survive a fatal wound and still take out her assassin.

One of the parties old friends tells them they have some useful information regarding the queen and then disappears somewhere in Old Korvosa. There are more interactions with the Red Mantis assassins leading to the nobility based out of the Old Korvosa area at Palace Arkona.

My players in this module were surprised by the events of the story and spent most of the session chasing rumours until they are defeated at the palace and forced to flee the city in search of the Shoanti who used to live where the city of Korvosa now stands.

Book Contains:

  • 3 part adventure
  • Faces of the Earthbound Evils – A Guide to the Rakshasas
  • The Red Mantis – More information on the mantis assassins
  • Pathfinder’s Journal – Thin Air
  • Bestiary – The Mantis God himself, more outsiders and undead
  • Pregen characters now at level 7

Book 10 – A History of Ashes

(6 Sessions)

In order to save their city from an evil queen, the heroes must venture into the savage Cinderlands and learn the ancient secrets of the barbarians who live there—and who would like nothing more than to see Korvosa wiped off the map. Also includes an ecological overview of the Cinderlands, as well as the trials and traditions of its people, the Shoanti. Plus an uncomfortably close look at an orc war in the Hold of Belkzen in the Pathfinder’s Journal!

This book expects the character to go from 10th level.

Now that the characters have left the city of Korvosa behind, they must survive in the lands of the Shoanti, exploring those areas around the city in search of information on an ancient evil encroaching on Korvosa.

They must make friends with the enemies of Korvosa and gain membership of the Shaonti tribe that has the information they seek. Then choices to be made, moral and otherwise, with their new friends at risk and still needing the information they hold to save their city.

My players had a lot of side quests to do here to gain the good will of the tribe, and during those one players unfortunately told the group during the session that was not how the encounter was written, breaking table etiquette by talking about the source material that beyond player knowledge. This is not something that occurs very often, but it does happen. Besides this, they still managed to join then save the clan gaining the secret knowledge they needed to save their city.

Book Contents:

  • 6 part adventure
  • The Cinderlands – The Fires of the Storval Plateau, a description of the Shoanti lands.
  • People of the Storval Plateau – The Shoanti way of life and details on the seven clans.
  • Pathfinder’s Journal – The Storm Breaks
  • Bestiary – More creatures of undead, magical beasts, aberration types.
  • Pregen Characters to level 10

Book 11 – Skeletons of Scarwall

(4 Sessions)

The haunted castle of a draconic warlord stands ready to devour all those who enter its ancient gates, yet only in its gothic spires can the heroes find the weapon they need to prevail against Korvosa’s cruel new mistress. Also includes insights into the sadistic church of Zon-Kuthon, God of Pain, as well as an exploration of the orc-ruled Hold of Belkzen and a lesson on the dangers of trust in Eando Kline’s Pathfinder’s Journal.

This book expects the character to go from 12th level.

A quest for a magical item to save them from the evil spirit in possession of the city, can they brave an accursed castle, find the item, and return to Korvosa.

This was a short adventure, most of it centred around the castle, and roleplaying opportunities with my group was fewer. This accelerated the dungeon crawl the castle became and they completed in less memorably than the rest of the campaign. At this level of play, either the encounters were too easy, or on the verge of wiping out the party.

Book Contains:

  • 3 part adventure
  • The Hold of Belkzen – A detailed look at the region where the adventure is next set.
  • Zon-Kuthon – The Midnight Lord, with more details on the god and his followers. As they make an appearance in earlier storylines, this should be read early on in the story.
  • Pathfinder’s Journal – A friend in need
  • Bestiary – more creatures of types undead, aberrations, outsider, dragon
  • Pregen characters from level 12

Book 12 – Crown of Fangs

(3 Sessions)

The time has come to put down mad Queen Ileosa before she can utterly destroy the city, but do the heroes have what it takes to assault the very walls of Castle Korvosa and contend with its fearless guardians, both innocent and diabolical? Also includes details on the artifacts known as the relics of Kazavon, the mysteries of the Harrow deck of many things, and Eando Kline’s bizarre trek to the orc capital of Urgir.

This book expects the character to go from 14th level.

With the artefact in hand the heroes are to return to Korvosa and find it a fallen city. Will they be able to join up with the resistance and start a rebellion.

The last act of the story is an attempt to stop a great evil from arising.

So my players put in a lot of effort to take back the city, working with various groups and taking out all the opponents along the way. Then they make it to the final encounter and one shot the big bad, which triggers another event to happen which they also stop. So without giving away how it was all done it was a very anti-climatic run, very much the opposite to Rise of the Runelords in which everyone died, here they wiped the floor and then some with many of the PC’s not needed in the final encounter. Tactically this was a very weak part of the storyline and hopefully with the release of the revised version it will be more challenging.

Book Contains:

  • 3 part adventure
  • Relics of Kazavon – seven artefacts of atrocity
  • Harrow Deck of Many Things – details on a new magical deck of cards
  • Pathfinder’s Journal – Pink like me
  • Bestary – contains types from constructs, outsiders, magical beast
  • Preview of Second Darkness (next Adventure Path)
  • Pregen Characters from level 14

Resources Available

AP Map Folio

This provides an excellent map of the city. The other game are maps are okay, and handy when running the game, but it is missing a map of the country Varisia that was in the previous adventure path.

This set provides some nice maps to pull out and show the players for each of the story points. Including a good map of the city.

AP Dice

These dice a good, though they have the same symbol on all the maximum number locations on all the dice which can be a little .

GameMastery – AP Item Cards

There are some nice imagery based on the setting. This works well with the other item cards and recommended for adding a little flavour to the tabletop.

These cards are interesting and if you used them as handouts for things the characters find during the storyline it can help with the immersion in the story for both games master and players. The saying of a picture can tell a thousand words is true when you have such nice artwork.

Mythic Adventures

Due to the failings of the characters as part of the Rise of the Runelords, I opened up the game to the mythic playtest and we gave it a good try gaining levels of mythic for achievements in the storyline.

This lead to inequality between players and their characters as some became more mythic than others. But it also lead to encounters being easier at later level and the final encounter being a walk through without a challenge.

I will go deeper into mythic adventures in another post, so now just pointing out that it provides I power increase at higher levels (especially when players misinterpret the rules) to make encounter too easy.

Conclusion

This was an interesting storyline, while the ending was disappointing due to the ease of the encounter, I am looking forward to revisiting the storyline again as part of the pathfinder revised storylines and with the pathfinder 2 ruleset when it is released in August.

As an update, they have released a book combining the set of six modules into an updated adventure converted to the pathfinder rules. I intend to use this with my Thassilonian Resurgence Adventure Path in the future, so feel free to check that out in my Pathfinder 2 information.

Content Updates

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  • 2020-12-30 – Removed legacy links to old hosted site.
  • 2020-10-19 – Migration of content from Realm Works.
  • 2020-04-26 – Structure.
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Adventure Paths: AP #1 – Rise of the Runelords, AP #2 – Curse of the Crimson Throne, AP #3 – Second Darkness, AP #4 – Legacy of Fire, AP #5 – Council of Thieves, AP #6 – Kingmaker, AP #7 – Serpent’s Skull, AP #8 – Carrion Crown, AP #9 – Jade Regent

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By thedarkelf007

I am a long term gamer, I run 6 RPG's a fortnight, host board game, card game and LANs each about once a quarter and have an addiction to buying more games. Games I am currently running are Pathfinder (1st and 2nd Edition) and Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition).

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