We all know that I am a bit of a Pathfinder fan, and that I have been a little short of games in the past six months or so (ever since that D&D flash in a pan game came out) so it is really nice to get a company to approach me and ask me to review a module for them. Especially Savage Mojo who are well known for their quality Savage Worlds productions and are now moving into the Pathfinder space. The company, truly an international organisation, set me up with a copy of the Palace of the Lich Queen, the third module in the Dungeonlands trilogy (Tomb of the Lich Queen, Machine of the Lich Queen were the first two). I am not going to call this so much of a module and more of a product because I have never, ever, come across a module in my time that weighs in at 217 pages!
While it would be nice to have had a look at the first two modules in this series, as they are intrinsically linked, I can see this product has huge potential. The product itself is not complete without the other two modules you see as some of the details (creatures and the like) that were introduced in the first two have not been replicated in the third due to space requirements. With the 217 pages needed for what they do have I can completely see where they are coming from there. I shudder to think how many extra pages would have been required. As it is the PDF made my iPad weigh three times as heavy when I opened it (I kid, but imagine the physical book)!
First impressions of this product were of how beautiful it was. Well put together and so very professional in appearance. The artwork is evocative and well done, the maps functional and attractive. Some of the maps were a little basic but on the whole there are so many that this does not really let it down in the least. Page layout is well done but there are some areas where you will be reading through pages and pages of text with little to break it up (i.e. no maps or pictures). This is happens more toward the back end of the book and I understand that there has to be a balance but I do find that reading through sections of that is actually a little arduous compared to the pages that are broken up.
The product has a beautiful amount of surrounding information. It starts with a fiction piece that explains a lot of what the players are going to have to face from the perspective of the Lich Queen herself. It made me feel for the Lich Queen and I actually (as I had not looked at the previous two adventures) had thought that it may be ending up somewhere completely different. The base idea in this piece of fiction looks at the trouble of memories for immortals and how they may reach a point where their memories will fail them so they let some go. These memories may be important though and so for the ones they think they will need again they will construct something that contains a memory so they do not need to. That idea is really quite powerful, and resonated with me. When I got into the meat of the module it explained so much also.
The module is set in the Suzerain mythos/campaign setting that is Savage Mojo’s well developed campaign world. There is a lot of material in here that adds and complements the setting but nothing that is truly obtrusive to putting the game into your own campaign world. It could be transferred with little to no work at all which is the mark of a great product.
The content of this module, I am assured, is on the whole quite a bit different to the other two modules. The characters have been making their way through some gruelling fantasy dungeons to reach this module in which they are expected to be on the final run to 20th level. I love adventure paths that manage to get you to 20th level from first level and all the players I have run through such games get such an achievement when they reach it. The adventurers (who are neatly called demi-gods all throughout the text) are on the final leg toward meeting the Lich Queen herself. It is the initial stages of the adventure where the players realise that they have taken a left turn at Albuquerque and things get very strange.
In fact, reality shifts many, many times in the first encounters that the players encounter. Gone is the surety of the fantasy setting as the players make their way through a mish-mash of genres that the Lich Queen herself has had some kind of dealing in (though that may be tenuous and non-apparent). There are a bunch of encounters, 16-17 or so, that are tough which the players can become involved in as they exit the Machine of the Lich Queen module. These encounters have deep, dark diplomacy, solid combat, horror, light-hearted themes all amongst them ranging in genres similar to far future, William Gibsonesque settings, and even some fantasy chucked in for amusement!
Then, just as day closes and they think the worst of it is passed them there are a further 10 encounters that continue into the night. Tough encounters that are just as genre bending as any of the others. All of these encounters are tough and the module sets the premise early. This is a go hard or die kind of module, so the player builds will want to be immaculate. That said, there is a really nice balance of social, puzzles and battles here that will keep all players interested. It may even be a disappointment when they come out of the day and night encounters and finally have to run through the palace in the more expected setting.
It of course won’t be. What they lose out in genre twisting will actually be capped beautifully by some of the most epic encounters in some of the most beautiful sections of a palace that I have come across. I do not want to ruin this for anyone but this ending just ties so nicely into all of the surrounding mythos and the initial piece of fiction that I lamented to the people at Savage Mojo that I regret not having the earlier copies of this product (Dungeonlands 1 and 2) that they are going to let me have a look at them as well. I want to see the broad scope of this adventure. I want to run it if that how it ends.
I liken this setting to the feeling that I got when I first read the synopsis of the Reign of Winter Adventure Path and I had a rush that said “I have to run this AP” due to its setting, and in particular what they do with the 5th instalment. I got the same feeling as I finished the final portion of this product and started to think about how to write to it for the blog.
This is one of the best third party adventures I have seen for Pathfinder. I am not saying that all the Paizo material is brilliant but they quality control well and there are far more adventures I like than I dislike. Of third party stuff there are some that I have read that I found awful. This is certainly not one of those. Any adventure that can make me want to find time amongst the three other games I am already running to play it is an amazing product.
Savage Mojo are beginning to bring the Suzerain setting to Pathfinder after a great deal of work with it in the Savage Worlds setting. If Savage Worlds has not grabbed your attention but Pathfinder has then these are some great adventures to immerse your players in. I have no hesitation in suggesting you look at this product. It is beautiful, interesting and a powerful end to what I hope will be just as exciting a start and middle. Keep rolling!