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Subject: All hail Razmir! rss

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Kris Vanhoyland
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“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” ― H.P. Lovecraft
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I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
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Valeros and Merisiel appear to have chosen a more direct approach...
Recently, the Pathfinder Modules line has gotten quite a significant overhaul, and the format has been changed from short, 32-page adventures to much meatier 64-page adventures. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet, but for now, let's head back into time to some of the earlier modules released.


The book

Masks of the Living God was the third module released specifically written for the Pathfinder Game, and is intended for 3rd level characters. It's a 32 page stapled booklet, with the first 28 pages devoted to the adventure itself. The art is full-color, and while it's not quite as high quality as the more recent releases, it's still quite good. The inside front and back cover hold detailed, full-color maps needed to run the adventure, as well as the OGL. Masks of the Living God is also the second part in the Price of Immortality series, which are three modules that can be linked together to form a sort of mini-campaign.

You can read my review of the first part in the series, Crypt of the Everflame, here. Just like the previous adventure, this one was written by Jason Bulmahn, also the lead designer of the Pathfinder game.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers about the plot of this module, so be warned if you want to continue reading beyond this point.


The plotline

At the end of Crypt of the Everflame, the PCs found several clues that will lead them to Tamran, the capital of Nirmathas, and which puts them on the trail of cultists of Razmir, a supposed god that lives amongst mortals in the nation of Razmir. They will have to secure passage there on a ship, after which follows a trek over the water, possibly interrupted with a few combat encounters. Once they arrive in Tamran, they are to meet with an allied pathfinder, who informs them that a Razmir cult has appeared in the city, two years ago, stationed in a temple they constructed with funds gathered in the city. They've been growing in power and influence, and the pathfinder instructs the PCs to get more information, and if possible, to infiltrate the cult.

What follows next is a complete change of pace from the previous module(s) released, and much of the adventure is presented in a freeform sandbox style, where the players can set their own pace and plan for dealing with the cult. The module then gives information on several things the PCs can accomplish by scouting the temple area and questioning the locals. The easiest way for the PCs to infiltrate the temple however, is to attend a meeting in a nearby tavern, where the cult supposedly interviews applicants. The module proceeds under the assumption that PCs take this course of action, and unfortunately offers only minor advice on alternative routes.

At the meeting, the PCs first meet the cultists and their charismatic leader, and after a rousing speech, are offered food and drink. After being drugged (with the players who succeed on their saves quickly being clobbered into submission by overwhelming odds), they wake up in a cell in the temple's basement, stripped of their possessions. After 24 hours, they are given the chance to be inducted into the cult, which is where the meat of the adventure begins. A young fellow from the bar is also with them, and the GM can use this NPC to pull the players into the adventure more thoroughly, and give them someone to relate too.

Money and power, that's what it's all about.
How the adventure proceeds now is largely left up to the players, but they soon realize this cult is more than it seems, as they are drilled by a truly vicious NPC named Krant. The module supplies us with a schedule for the new recruits, which consists of menial labor, prayers to Razmir, cleaning duty, more prayers, training in the courtyard, and transcribing holy texts. After two days of following this routine, the PCs can have their gear returned to them, and are given free reign to roam the temple, apart from the second floor. The temple complex itself consists of two floors and a basement, and the inside front cover has maps for all these levels.

A GMs job here is to play up the cruelty of some of these cultists, but not too punish them too hard for their transgressions. This part of the adventure is best done as a slow build-up, and GMs should try and dissuade the players from rushing towards the end. Special mention here should go towards Krant, a brute and the NPC that the players will be dealing with most. GMs should make it their mission to get their players to thoroughly hate this man, so they get all the more satisfaction when they can finally face off against him.

During their time in the cult, several events will unfold, that help illustrate what the cult is really up to. A bloodsport event happens early on, where Krant forces the PCs to fight each other in an all-out brawl. Some other events allow them to leave the temple for a while, under escort, where they are first instructed to distract the crowd so that other cultists can pickpocket them, and later on Krant takes them to a baker, where they have to beat him up and trash his store in an attempt to persuade him to cough up protection money. In both cases, there are alternative means of navigating these encounters, for the players whose morals don't exactly allow for these kind of practices.

Eventually, the PCs will have to find a way to sneak out and to report to the pathfinder, who then instructs them to find some sort of evidence of these illicit practices, so that the authorities can close the entire cult down. Once again, how they do this, is completely left up to the players. The author here gives the very useful advice that they should eventually get a chance to allow the players some payback for all their abuse, and their flight from the temple should be dramatic and exciting. Especially Krant, as mentioned earlier, would be able to provide the players with a very satisfying fight, after they've put up with his crap for all this time.

The last part of the module is written more traditionally, and is made to be referenced continuously throughout the adventure. It has the entire temple detailed with a floor-by-floor, room-to-room description, including what's to be found there, and who can be encountered there at what points in the day/night. Apart from offcourse the obligatory humanoid cultists, there's quite a few evocative adversaries that can be encountered here, such as a spider swarm, a giant snake, earth elementals, various traps, and a most interesting unique mask golem monster.

Eventually, the PCs will find several ledgers which is all the evidence they need, along with a note that is reproduced as a handout. This puts them on the trail of the cult's local leader, an elven sorceress who is already on her way to a local island called the Isle of Terror. What happens on the way there, and when they eventually catch up to her, is detailed in the next module, City of Golden Death, and the conclusion of this mini-campaign.


The backmatter

There really isn't a lot of additional backmatter in the book, as most of it is taken up by the rather intricate adventure. There is a one-page appendix that details the rules of the Razmir faith that the players will have to adhere too, followed by the consequences for breaking these rules.

Following this is the statblock for the new unique monster, a mask golem, a rather nasty creation that can use the masks it's made up from to control its adversaries.


The verdict

Masks of the Living God is a very refreshing adventure, and a nice change from the more traditional "kill & take their stuff" dungeoncrawl. This module will require the players to pace themselves and think before they act, since they could easily get in over their heads, with disastrous results.

Even though it's presented as a sandbox, the module still suffers somewhat from a railroading problem though, and the GM running this will have to be as creative as the PCs when they go off the beaten path. Most players dislike it when their characters are being messed with, and this module wipes its feet all over that, so a GM will have to find a nice balance to get players feeling annoyed enough, without them taking rash action, potentially endangering themselves.

That said, when run right, the infiltration aspect of the module will make for a very entertaining adventure, but it's definitely not written with a novice GM in mind.

The only part of the module that's a bit lackluster, is the boatride in the very beginning, which could prove to be quite deadly with some of the random encounters. As I already mentioned in my review of Crypt of the Everflame, There's also an experience problem in this series of modules, and you'll need to be aware of that when planning to run these in conjunction. Several random encounters on the boatride are needed to get the party to third level, and after this adventure, they will still be about half a level short to start the last module.

This module is a bit of an oddball in the line, but it has interesting premise and a lot of great potential.

Note: Iron Reviewer 2013 - Entry #23
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